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Author Topic: Which part(s) of the cochineal beetle are used to make the food colouring?  (Read 1752 times)

Offline Hiheels

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...and what do they do to them? Just grind them up? Is anything else added?

Offline jacquesdor

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Cochineal dyeing in southern Mexico is now folk art and practiced by the natives. The female insects are hand-picked and dried in the sun, interrupted by periods in shade. The finest form is called silver cochineal (plateada). Also collected are the leaves of a special tree of Oaxaca, the tejuté (Miconia argentea, Family Melastomataceae), which grows in lowland forests near the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Well water is heated in a large aluminum pot over a wood fire while skeins of woolen thread are soaked in a tub of clear, cool water. When the water starts to steam, the dyer throws in several handfuls of dried, crumbled tejuté leaves (the mordant and color intensifier; oxalic acid). Cochineal powder (1/2 pound to 15 gallons of water) is added to the boiling water, and juice from fresh limes (80 per 15 gallons) are also added and stirred in. Then the wet skeins of wool are placed into the pot and boiled for more than an hour. During this time an acrid odor comes from the hot acid in the pot. After soaking in the dye, the skeins are hung to cool on nearby branches and permitted to dry overnight. The next day the skeins are washed in a sudsy water and rinsed thoroughly in a flowing stream, to bring back the intense red color. Then the skeins are dried for two to three days. The resultant color is dependent on the duration of soaking, the amount of the pigment used, and the chemicals added to the boiling water for the mordant process.


It seems the same method is used for food colouring. Cochineal food colouring has been proved to be safer that alternative methods which had carcinogenic properties. Interesting link.