Deconstructing a Clementine

Deconstructed clementine 4.jpg

On Thanksgiving Eve, I spent an afternoon experimenting with clementines. By experimenting, I mean tediously picking apart the little capsules of citrus juice that comprise to form a whole citrus fruit. Yes, one by one, I stripped those miniature packets of juice from each other.

In the science world, those little capsules of juice are called vesicles, or pulp. Essentially, they are membranes containing a liquid.

Deconstructed clementine 2.jpg

At first, I wanted to see if I could infuse the taste of chocolate into a whole wedge of clementine, so I peeled a clementine and further peeled the clementine’s wedges so that only the conglomerate of vesicles remained. Then, I created a solution of water, cocoa powder, and some sugar. Once I got the solution to boil, I let a couple peeled wedges of clementines sit in the chocolate bath. After a few minutes, I took the clementine out and tasted it. While, the clementines tasted okay, much of the citrus kick disappeared.

Clementine in boil 2.jpg

Anyways, as I washed the chocolate-infused clementine wedged under running water, I noticed that the individual vesicles began to easily fall apart. With no plan in mind, I decided to boil a few wedges of clementines in plain water with the sole purpose of deriving more vesicles from these clementines. I thought the vesicles looked charming. Thus, my experiment was born, and a couple hours later, I had a nice amount of clementine vesicles. Of course, being boiled in water, the vesicles were rather bland and lost much of their tastes.

Enter, deconstruction of a clementine version two. After taking a break, I returned to try the boiling method of clementine deconstruction again when I realized that I could simply pull apart vesicles from the clementine wedge without having to boil them. While this process took more time and was more meticulous, more flavor was preserved.

Deconstructed clementine 3.jpg

Today, as I was researching some molecular gastronomy related topics, I stumbled across this webpage that reveals the existence of an enzyme called pectinase that dissolves the white fibers that connect various vesicles together. Pectinase is used in the food industry to mass produce fruit juices, but on the smaller, molecular gastronomy scale, pectinase can be used to deconstruct a clementine—or any other citrus fruit for that matter. My guess is that the vesicles would simply fall apart after pectinase dissolves the structure that holds the vesicles together.

Deconstructed clementine.jpg

Regardless, I can see these citrus fruit vesicles to have an appeal for the aesthetics of a plate. My goal is to make a citrus fruit tartare out of these, since they have a striking resemblance to raw meat. Both are somewhat translucent and look slimy. Here’s a summary of the two processes I’ve mentioned.

Deconstructing a Citrus Fruit

Method One: Boil the peeled wedges of citrus fruit in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Remove the wedge from water, and use utensils such as chopsticks to separate individual vesicles from the wedge.

Method Two: Manually separate vesicles using hands or soft utensils without boiling the citrus fruit.

Peeled clementine.jpg

Within the new couple weeks, I will publish a new post showing how to reconstruct the clementine! Here’s a teaser.

Reconstructed Clementine.jpg

About Earl

Hi, my name is Earl. I am a student who loves to analyze food and eat healthy. My careful eye for food has caused me to become interested in the science behind food and cooking, and I write about my explorations into food on my website While I believe in sticking to whole, natural foods, I'm not afraid to work with avant-garde ingredients and equipment such as constant temperature water baths and sodium alginate. I also love photography, technology, and journalism.

01. December 2010 von Earl
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