Sodium citrate

Is a moderately expensive substance to buy.

But why would you buy some anyway?

Because you can turn any cheese into melty cheese. How’d you like a slab of “processed cheese” that melts just like those cheese slices, but it’s made from an actual cheese? Sodium citrate does it. It’s also used in molecular gastronomy, but I don’t do that. Yet… 😉

But why would you buy it.. when you can make it? Well, I am a cheapskate. So I made it.

I provide weights in metric first. Accuracy is important in this recipe so please use metric if you can.

  • 125g (1/2 cup) water
  • 97g (3.42oz) sodium bicarbonate / bicarbonate of soda / baking soda
  • 74g (2.61oz) citric acid
  • Add the citric acid to the water. Stir till the citric acid is dissolved. Warning before adding the baking soda – it will fizz like mad. Make sure the pot you use is a large one.

    Add the baking soda. Stir thoroughly while it’s fizzing. Once the foam dies down, it will fizz gently for a while – possibly over an hour. Keep an eye on the pot, and stir from time to time if you start seeing any cloudiness.

    Once the fizzing has died down, heat the liquid on medium-high until it comes to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and keep stirring. You want to cook off all the water. Stir constantly, you want to break up the crystals as they form.

    Once all the water is cooked off, you’re left with what looks like slightly odd shaped salt. That’s your sodium citrate.

    The thickness of the cheese product will depend on the ratio of liquid to cheese. If you weigh the cheese and then add the liquid as a percent of the weight you will get:

  • Cheese plus 0% to 35% liquid – firm, moulded cheese, cheese slices
  • Cheese plus 35% to 85% liquid – thick and flowing cheese sauce, good for dips and quesos
  • Cheese plus 85% to 120% liquid – thin cheese sauce, cheese foam, fondues, mac and cheese
  • Cheese plus 120% liquid or more – continues to become thinner and thinner.
  • Add sodium citrate at 2% to 3% of the combined weight of the cheese and the liquid. As a specific example, to make a tasty cheese slice:

  • 400g/14oz aged cheddar, shredded
  • 140g/5oz water
  • 15g/0.53oz sodium citrate
  • Add the sodium citrate to the water, stir while heating over low-medium until it’s dissolved, add the shredded cheese and stir until the cheese melts. Quickly transfer to a plastic wrap lined mould and refrigerate until completely cold. Slice thinly and melt over your burgers!

    Further customisation – instead of cheddar, why not try blue? Or pepperjack/blue cheese blend? What about the liquid – again, let your imagination go wild. Water, milk, cream, stock, beer, what do you want to add? What will go with your final dish?

    Since sodium citrate brings a salty, sour taste it’s important to use appropriate proportions while keeping the flavour of the dish in mind. But with it being so cheap to make, you can experiment to your heart’s content.

    Final note – a double batch of this yields 231g, or just over a half pound of SC. This should keep you in experimental materials for quite a few batches!

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