cream of tartar

What is Cream of Tartar?

Cream of tartar is one of the basic essentials that can be seen in kitchens. Aside from being a common household chemical for various remedies, this is also used for baking and cooking. But what exactly is this ingredient? Where does it come from?

It is an odorless, white powder which appears to have crystalline characteristic. This is recognized as potassium hydrogen tartrate and even potassium bitartrate.


The truth is that cream of tartar comes from grapes, but it can be commonly mistaken as a by-product of different chemical ingredients. How is it possible? When grapes are fermented especially during production of wine, potassium bitartrate crystallizes. The complex process that wine manufacturers do is not the only way to produce this crystal-like form. When grape juice is poured and chilled, the precipitation can also contain these crystals. The same can also be seen on corks and rims of wine bottles when stored in a room with cool temperature.cream of tartar

The crystals are the crude form of cream of tartar. For manufacturers and producers, these crystals are collected with the use of a cheese cloth. As the wine or grape juice precipitates, small particles of the crystals go with it. The fine weaving of the cheesecloth serves as the filter for collection. These raw crystals are also called as beeswing.

Common Uses

As a common household item, cream of tartar can also be used for cleaning. It effectively removes some of the stains on walls, tiles and other hard surfaces. Using this also makes it easy to remove accumulated deposits of hard water in the kitchen and bathroom. It also peels off hardened soap residue.

To heighten the cleaning power, this is often combined with white vinegar to form a paste. Leave the compound on the hard to remove stain for a few minutes and a gentle scrubbing afterwards will already remove the stubborn dirt.

Main Ingredient for Baking

Of course, this ingredient is also essential for various dishes and recipes. Baked goods are not complete without it. The main role of this ingredient is to improve the texture and volume of baked products like cakes, cookies, pastries and breads. Adding it to egg whites makes it easy to achieve the desired fluffiness. Even when the egg whites are subjected to high heat, it would not end up flat. Maintaining the form of whipped cream can be such a challenge too without this ingredient. A dash of it is crucial in keeping the whipped cream stable. Most importantly, when it is added to the baking soda, an acid is formed which results to more carbon dioxide. This makes breads, cakes and pastries soft and more enjoyable to eat.

Other Uses

Another neat trick that this ingredient can do is to prevent vegetables from having the unpleasant discoloration when boiled. A small amount of it will keep the vibrant color of cooked vegetables so that they are more pleasing and tempting when served.

Since the 19th century, cream of tartar has already been used in many households. Because of its various uses, a kitchen cupboard will never be complete without it.

Published by

Vanjo Merano

I blog about Filipino and Asian food and recipes.