Cream of Tartar
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Diane McClure
Posted on: September 11, 2000

My question is: What is cream of tartar used for? Is it a natural spice? Where does it come from and are there any side effects to using it in baking? What is it commonly used for? I have a recipe for Snickerdoodles that call for this spice and I was wondering about it.

Cream of tartar is not really considered a spice. It is a chemical derived from a crystalline acid deposited on the insides of wine barrels.

According to the Columbia Encyclopedia (Sixth Ed.): "it is potassium hydrogen tartrate, KC<sub>4</sub>H<sub>5</sub>O<sub>6</sub>, the acidic potassium salt of tartaric acid... (The) impure form, called tartar or argol, forms naturally during the fermentation of grape juice into wine and crystallizes in the wine casks."

It is added to candy and frosting mixtures to give a creamier consistency, and to egg whites before beating to improve stability and volume. It’s also used as the leavening agent in baking powders.

What are the health consequences of ingesting cream of tartar? It can cause blood pressure to fall. Some natural healers recommend a mixture of lemon juice and cream of tartar for transient hypertension such as that caused by pregnancy. For those with hypotension (low blood pressure), it may not be wise to take too much cream of tartar.

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