Banana consommé. Pure, clear, unadulterated, liquid essence of banana. (Actually, it’s technically a consommé of roasted, caramelised bananas.) This precious liquid was obtained using a gelatin filtration method, which allows the liquid containing the soluble flavour compounds to be removed while the flesh of the banana remains trapped behind due to the network that the gelatin forms in the mixture.
I bet you never knew how much you needed banana consommé in your life until now! It must have a million purposes! Mix it with… other liquids! Make it into… ice cubes? I don’t know…
But there’s a beautiful story behind this banana consommé’s existence.
When some other lab members and I went to a conference on the frontal lobes of the brain in Toronto in March this year, we were all horrifically jet-lagged. I spent the week experiencing almost constant nausea. We were falling asleep during so many of the talks. Our resident psychiatrist was have lucid dreams in which he saw the current speaker giving harsh scores to children for their figure-skating routines. However, in our semi-conscious state, there was one thing that several of us took away from the conference: banana juice, and the importance thereof. Turns out that macaques (the primates often used in neuroscience experiments) absolutely love banana juice. One of the speakers was saying that macaques love banana juice above all else: apple juice, sultanas, grape juice, whatever, don’t bother, it’s all about the banana juice.
If you want to train a macaque to do a task, use banana juice as a reward. If you want to study the reward circuitry of the brain in macaques, use banana juice (or cocaine… or juice and cocaine, as this study did). If you want to see macaque neurons fire in response to a cue on a computer screen, make sure that cue is usually followed by a drink of banana juice, and then you’ll see particular neurons fire in anticipation of the banana juice.
But what is banana juice? Is it just puréed banana? Because that, my friend, would be banana purée. How does one juice a banana?
These were incredibly important questions in our jet-lagged brains.
Ultimately, it resulted in my decision to make banana consommé, to bring into existence an unadulterated banana essence. This, I decided, was closest one could possibly get to the definition of banana juice. And it was beautiful to behold.
I imagine macaques would gnaw through a brick wall to get to this stuff.
Later on, I decided to follow up my consommé-ing success with another tribute to our Toronto trip: clamato consommé, since clamato juice was served on the plane between Vancouver and Toronto. Clamato juice is clam juice and tomato juice, for the lucky souls who have been fortunate enough to avoid knowing about its existence. None of us had heard of it or tried it before and we all desperately wish we could repress our memories of it now, because our simple minds were not prepared for it.
I couldn’t get any clams for my recipe, so I used mussels. I blended them with tomatoes (almost breaking my 600W stick-blender in the process because of the horrible sinewy tissue of the mussels), did a gelatin filtration, and produced clamato (well, musselato) consommé.
Then I took it to work and made our resident psychiatrist drink it. I think he had tears in his eyes.
I then put the clamato juice in the fridge at work, with a smiley-face on it and I don’t know what happened to it but it did eventually disappear.
Read on for the recipe for banana consommé using gelatin filtration. And feel free to suggest interesting potential uses for banana consommé, because I only really made this as a proof of concept and didn’t think much beyond that…
1 tbs brown sugar
2 cups of water
Preheat oven to 200°C. Peel the bananas and put them on a lined baking tray. Sprinkle the brown sugar over them. Bake until browned (20-30 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
Blend the bananas and the water together thoroughly with a stick blender or in a free-standing blender. Measure the combined weight of the bananas and water and make a note of this. Measure out 0.5% of this weight in gelatin (e.g. if your banana/water mixture weighs 600g, measure out 3g of gelatin). Place one cup of the banana liquid in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat until warm and just steaming and add the gelatin to it, stirring until the gelatin is dissolved. Take this liquid and add it back into the original banana/water mixture and stir thoroughly to combine.
Pour this mixture into a bowl and freeze overnight. Remove it from the bowl (you might have to place the bowl in a sink with some hot water in it to warm the outer edges of the frozen mixture and get it to detach from the bowl). Place the frozen mixture into a muslin bag then place it in a sieve and suspend the sieve over a bowl.
Allow the banana mixture to defrost slowly. You can leave it in the fridge to do this, but it takes ages (or might not happen at all, if you have a temperamental fridge like ours that’s always too cold even when you adjust the thermostat). A quicker way is to place the bowl in an insulated cooler bag, along with some frozen ice-packs, frozen vegetables or bags of ice-cubes. Keep in a cool place if possible, and let it defrost during the night if possible.
The banana consommé will drip down out of the block and through the muslin and sieve into the bowl. Collect and store in the fridge until you figure out what to do with it.