DIY ECA (Encapsulated Citric Acid)

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DailyLunatic

Fire Starter
Original poster
Jan 11, 2023
72
34
Ban Ko Kaeo, Thailand
In another thread I asked about ways to get ‘tang’ into snack sticks.

Cut to the chase, being a newbie, I’m nervous about doing fermentation.

Unfortunately, as explained in that thread, ECA is extremely expensive here in Thailand. So I’ve decided to give DIY a go. Can’t find any existing DIY on this topic, so I’m starting my own. Suggestions and catching me in errors appreciated.

First, ECA is not likely to be a citric acid ‘crystal’ coated with hydrogenated palm oil, so much as a slurry of hydrogenated palm oil and citric acid powder. What the ratio of palm oil to citric acid powder is unknown to me. I would have to take a known sample and render out the acid, measuring before and after, and I don’t have any.

I plan on heating a sample of citric acid and as minimal hydrogenated palm oil as I can and still coat everything.(Yeah, I can get that cheap here. Weird.) Will the heat affect the citric acid at this point?

Next, I need to granulate the slurry. All methods I have been able to locate online about granulation require industrial level processing. No home level found. So I am thinking I will first spoon this slurry into silicone ice cube molds and freeze.

I now have several chunks of ECA. I plan to take this and grate with a chilled zester, or fine cheese grater, onto a silicone sheet or parchment paper. Spread a fine single layer, and heat in oven, or torch, to melt sharp edges of gratings. Freeze and scrape into cold container. Cold water rinse to remove any residual citric acid to exterior surfaces. Dry and store for use.

I will need to work out ratio and dosage for my recipes as I would not have anything to compare it to. It may be stronger or weaker than commercial.

$50 - $60 for 3oz of commercial ECA, vs $5 - $7 + labor for estimated 12oz

First, is it doable? I know it’d be tedious, but being retired I got more time than money now.

Second, is it safe? Chemical reactions, etc.

In the example above I mentioned hydrogenated palm oil because that was listed as the ingredient on the website for the commercial ECA I was able to find. Many sites refer to hydrogenated palm oil interchangeably as Palm wax. So there is confusion there as well. Avoiding anything with perfumes, as some are intended for candle making.

Other materials with similar properties are:
Bees wax
Coconut wax
Soy wax (I want to avoid this if possible)

I would love to hear your constructive thoughts on the above.

Thank you,
-sterling
 
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First, ECA is not likely to be a citric acid ‘crystal’ coated with hydrogenated palm oil, so much as a slurry of hydrogenated palm oil and citric acid powder. What the ratio of palm oil to citric acid powder is unknown to me.
As far as I know ECA is exactly that, encapsulated citric acid. The hydrogenated palm oil keeps the citric acid from contact with the meat until IT of the sausage is somewhere close to 130F at which point the oil shell dissolves releasing the citric acid into the sausage. This is necessary because the citric acid will denature the ground meat and create a very crumbly sausage released to soon.

I think the process you have described will produce a very crumbly sausage, a poor texture. But I am curious as to how this works for you.

As to fermentation, the culture F-LC can be use in temps from 95-115F on the high end for a US style fermentation, pronounced tang like US pepperoni. Other than that NAM powder will work to. This product is used to make Thai sour sausage.
 
It sounds like a fun experiment, and I'd think it would be possible to make something at home that approximates the commercial product. May take a couple of tries...palm oil properties vary a lot with the degree of hydrogenation, and I've no idea what type of palm oil is used in commercial ECA. Probably one with a (relatively) high melting point.

Citric acid, in pure form, melts at 156C/313F and decomposes at 175C/347F, so it is fairly heat stable. I don't see it reacting with palm oil at reasonable temperatures. It is a skin and eye irritant, properties I'd think would be greatly reduced once encapsulated.
 
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paging daveomak daveomak .....

He might have some technical info for you.

I agree with with SmokinEdge though, I believe that the citric Acid is encapsulated. The reason I say that is because of labeling laws in the U.S......can't make a claim that is untrue. But I guess it all depends on the definition of encapsulated right???
 
I agree with with SmokinEdge though, I believe that the citric Acid is encapsulated. The reason I say that is because of labeling laws in the U.S......can't make a claim that is untrue. But I guess it all depends on the definition of encapsulated right???

I’m starting from the assumption that encapsulation is one of two methods:

1. They compress the citric acid powder into tiny little balls and then coat with the Palm wax. Think tiny Malt Balls.

2. They mix the powder with the Palm wax and granulate that slurry. Think tiny Rice Krispie Treats. This is what I will be attempting.

(Yeah, I might be hungry…)

Either way, so long as I round the sharp edges so to reduce breakage during final hand mix, & do a cold water rinse to remove any exposed citric acid powder, I think I’ll be okay, even if it’s not the commercial method.

-sterling
 
Here is some of the data I have been able to gather regarding melting points of various Hydrogenated Oils/Shortenings/Waxes (hereafter referred to colloquially as Waxes).

Depending on Brand, Commercial ECA have an advertised melting point range of 135 (57) - 150 (65) to be held for a minimum of 1 hour.

Modernist Pantry: uses Cottonseed Wax with a range of 141 (60) - 147 (63)
Ask the Meatman: uses Palm Wax with a stated temp of 150 (65)
Walton's: uses Cottonseed Wax with a stated temp of 135 (57)

Note: The following is gathered from multiple sources. Highs may be from a different source, or grade of wax, than lows. Unless you know the specific grade, with melting point, of the wax you have, assume worst case from the generic temps and do not trust that it will melt higher or lower than what you require.

Palm Wax: 125 (52) - 149 (65)
Beeswax: 143 (62) - 147 (64)
Soy Wax: 113 (45) - 154 (68)
Cottonseed Wax: 109 (43) - 159 (71)

Of the above, I have chosen to start the experiment with Beeswax for two reasons. First, the range of melting temps is narrower. Additionally, the low of Beeswax is not below either the Modernist Panty's stated low of 141 ( 60), or Walton's stated temp of 135 (57), so I do not fear early release due to low melting temp, and thus spoiling the texture of the sausage.

Soy Wax would have been my next choice, as the various grades were clearly indicated, with melting points. High melt, low melt, C3, 444, 464, etc... Some of these grades had ideal melting point ranges. With Soy, I could order with assurance of the grade I had in hand. (Note: this is just my results. You may find better sources for other waxes than I.)

However, the second reason for choosing Beeswax was the concern that many of the above waxes are used in candle making. Unless stated, they may not be 'food safe', or may have unadvertised perfumes or stabilizers that might be fine for candle making, but not for food. This is not a major concern to 'me' (I grew up in the 60's.) I say it so that anyone following this will know to be aware and verify suitability for use in food, 'if' it is a concern to them.

The Beeswax I have sourced is from a farm with which I am familiar, is local to me, is filtered, but otherwise unprocessed. I purchased 500 grams (17.6 oz) for 200 baht + 38 baht shipping ($6.87). I expect it to last quite some time.

-sterling
 
I would recommend ordering the book:

The Art of Making Fermented Sausages by Adam and Stanley Marianski

Hands down the best resource for understanding how to ferment salami the right way safely. Read that cover to cover about 5 times and you'll become more confident an understand how it is done.
 
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However, the second reason for choosing Beeswax was the concern that many of the above waxes are used in candle making. Unless stated, they may not be 'food safe', or may have unadvertised perfumes or stabilizers that might be fine for candle making, but not for food. This is not a major concern to 'me' (I grew up in the 60's.) I say it so that anyone following this will know to be aware and verify suitability for use in food, 'if' it is a concern to them.

You should be aware that beewax is known to be highly contaminated with botulism spores.

The high prevalence of C. botulinum in soil and in samples associated with beeswax suggests the accumulation of soil-derived botulinal spores in wax.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16689729/

You definitely do not want to put that in a dried sausage!
 
Find a pure food grade source for your oil.

Proper fermentation would definitely be safer than adding a C. Botulinum contaminated wax to your meat paste.

Thank you, but this whole exercise is a work around so that I do not have to ferment. So, no, I won't be putting ECA into my fermented Sausage.

Also, thank you for pointing out the issue with botulism spore. I was unaware. Researching I see that botulism is NOT going to be killed at temperatures below ~250°F (121°C). Therefore, spores could be hiding within the wax even after ECA preparation at temps of ~150°F (65°C), or final cook of the sausage at temps of 185°F (85°c)

On the other hand, these same spores are also contained in Honey. This is the reason that you are not supposed to give Honey to infants (Which I knew, just didn't know the reason why till just now). However, the digestive tract of most healthy humans does not give the right conditions for botulism.

On the gripping hand, the Botulism can grow, and TOXIN can be produced, within the sausage before consumption. You may not have worries about the bacterium itself, but the toxin could already be present at time of consumption.

In order for the spores to activate, the environment must have a certain temperature range (check), moisture (check), low acid (check), low salt (Information says less than 10%, so soft check), low sugar (check), and lack of oxygen (check).

Question to those in the know re: Curing Salts & the Botulism spore issue:
At what point does the use of Cure#1 inhibit botulism contamination in the sausage? Given that spores could be hiding within the wax and not in contact with Cure until after temps of 150°F (65°C) are reached during the cooking process.

In other words:
1. Does the Nitrous Oxide provide the protection, or does the Sodium Nitrate, which is later rendered inert. (I assume it's the Sodium Nitrate)
2. At what point does Sodium Nitrate convert to Nitrous Oxide (again, I'm expecting bad news here...)
3. Can forgoing the use of Cure Accelerators help to prolong exposure to Cure past the ECA release?

I'm past the point of continuing to want to use the Beeswax. Looking for educational purposes only.

-sterling
 
If I knew it would fly under customs, I'd gladly sent the OP a decent stash of ECA.
I appreciate the thought. Thank you. Don't get in trouble...

Finding some food ingredients is sometimes difficult.

Example: I got a hankering for Kool-Aid last year. Long story short, I eventually found a source that would ship to Thailand. It was Pricey, Plus Shipping, plus Duties, and then the kicker... I had to apply for a special license to import food products into the country. (I've since found an online source that stocks intermittently, and a brick and mortar about 9 hours away by train where I can stock up every few months...)

This is why 'some' things are dirt cheap, and others are outrageous, if available at all.

Again, thanks for the thought...

-sterling
 
I can tell from reading his thread you are intelligent enough and capable of safely fermenting. DIYing the ECA is more work than fermenting AND you're not going to achieve the same flavor. Not worth it. What fresh fermented stuff you got over there? I used buttermilk, yogurt, and other stuff to ferment sausage... Looks like Pak Dong would be a good source. I was intimidated about fermenting a long time but longer are.
 
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I can tell from reading his thread you are intelligent enough and capable of safely fermenting. DIYing the ECA is more work than fermenting AND you're not going to achieve the same flavor. Not worth it. What fresh fermented stuff you got over there? I used buttermilk, yogurt, and other stuff to ferment sausage... Looks like Pak Dong would be a good source. I was intimidated about fermenting a long time but longer are.

The local sausages are mealy, full of fillers, sour, and nasty.

-I'm not interested in learning fermentation.-
I was for a while, but I learned that temperature control is a different (inverse) issue in tropical climates, and would require equipment I do not have, or have the desire to build. (...and if I hear the suggestion of just putting a light bulb in a cooler to keep them 'warm', one more time...)

My goals are: Eckrich style rope sausage, Italian Sausages, jerky, briskets, pulled pork, and smoked cheeses (at least when the goats start producing.) Nothing that requires fermentation...

When I convinced the wife to allow me a smoker, I offhandedly mentioned snack sticks that are commonly found in convenience stores in the USA. (Slim Jim's, and the like.) I wouldn't even be trying to do the ECA at all, if it were not for the wife glomming onto the idea of these 'authentic' American snack sticks. (I'm not a fan.)

She wants to give them to the guys building the house, and to the nieces/nephews, and their kids, and their kid's kids (she's the youngest of 11, and they all live next door. ...all... *sob*). Yeah, she'd never know the difference, but she's looking forward to the 'tang' I made the mistake of telling her about, and so I try...

Happy Wife, Happy Life.

-sterling
 
I have some good news for you....you can ferment at room temperature. No light necessary. And for small diameter snack sticks, no worry about keeping the proper humidity while fermenting if you will be cooking them and not drying them.
 
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Look into a product GLD (glucono-delta-lactone) E575 it is used in commecial fast ferment products, tofu, and some cheeses.

There is also a commercally avilable form of lactic acid you can add directly to the meat past instead of relying on microbes.
 
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