Carmine - Defined

Carmine— A red coloring used for syrups, sauces, cakes, etc., obtained from the cochineal insect; made by bruising four ounces of cochineal insects and soaking for a few minutes in three pints of cold water, then put to boil with two ounces of common washing soda; when boiling, removed to where it simmers only, then slowly is added two ounces of rock alum, then four ounces of cream of tartar, boiled up for two minutes, strained, and when cold, bottled for use.

Carmine Coloring For Beverages circa 1888

Carmine is the coloring principle of the cochineal, extracted from the latter by boiling and precipitated with alum, or extracted with a solution of carbonate of soda and precipitated with diluted acids. Its preparation requires a great deal of experience, and depends much on circumstances, and should therefore never be tried in the bottlers’ laboratory, since commercial carmine is to be had at reasonable figures, and in all degrees of purity.

In commerce the various grades are designated by numbers, the highest number, generally No. 40—in some price lists, No. 60—means the best, and this always should be used, as it gives a stronger and more brilliant red than the rest. Carmine is classed with the vegetable colors, is not deleterious to health and can be safely used.

A practical process not open to the objections previously mentioned, whereby a more stable, concentrated and thoroughly representative product can be secured, is obtained in the following manner:

Take carmine (No. 40), water of ammonia, glycerin in certain proportions, and a sufficient quantity of water. Rub the carmine (one ounce) into a fine powder, with a little water, in a wedge-wood mortar; make a paste with and dissolve in the water of ammonia (one pint of water with one ounce of spirits of ammonia), and then add with constant trituration four ounces of glycerin.

Transfer to a porcelain capsule, and heat upon a water- bath, until the liquid is entirely destitute of ammoniacal odor; when sufficiently cool, bottle and cork.

The entire removal of the ammonia gas requires the constant stirring of the liquid with a glass rod, and rather lengthy heating. By boiling the volatile ammonia evaporates.

The ammonia can also be neutralized by the addition of a few drops of acetic acid, but care must be taken, and the neutralization ascertained with litmus paper, which should retain its blue color, otherwise some more ammonia or acetic acid has to be added for correction.

The finished product is a permanent, deep, ruby-red liquid, perfectly transparent, destitute of ammoniacal odor, and mixes, without turbidity, with all aqueous solutions.

The depth of color or strength of tincture may be varied to suit individual tastes. If the carmine does not entirely dissolve, add a little more ammonia, and should this be of no service, it proves that the carmine is adulterated. Carmine coloring does not stain or tarnish the bottles.

If the batch of carmine coloring should fade, be sure that sulphuric acid or sulphuric vapors have come over from the generator to the fountain by careless charging.

The water of the beverages must have been previously well purified, as many spring or well waters show against cochineal and carmine tinctures an alkaline reaction.

Carmine Coloring (Not for Human Consumption)

  • Solution of Carmine. (Red.)
  • Carmine, No. 40,              120        grains
  • Potassium Carbonate. (Salts of Tartar), 60 grains
  • Glycerin,              2 fl. ounces
  • Ammonia Water,             1/2 fl. ounce
  • Water,  5 fl. ounces

Rub the carmine with the salts of Tartar to a fine powder, and then with glycerin, ammonia water, and lastly with the water, added in successive portions to rinse out the mortar. This is a strong red coloring, easily made, and will keep permanently.

Uses. This solution may be used for coloring all neutral elixirs, solutions, tinctures, syrups, etc., which do not contain a large percentage of alcohol. It is precipitated by acids, and cannot therefore be employed for coloring acid syrups, etc.

It makes a fine red or carmine ink and may be perfumed by diluting with an equal quantity of orange flower or rose water and used as “liquid rouge." It may be used for giving a flesh tint to liquid face cosmetics and may be mixed with face powders to give them the same.

When used for coloring powders it should first be rubbed with a little of the powder and then with the remainder.


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