Orange juice science

Reading ingredients in the quintessential American breakfast drink feels good. It’s simply “orange juice.” I get a mental picture of a factory smushing the tangy orange balls until nothing else drips out. Then it strains some or all of the pulp and bottles the bright, vitamin C-filled juice. Three steps. At least, that was the picture I had until I overheard a conversation on my plane ride back from Science Online last month. A woman from the orange juice industry was explaining something I never thought to wonder about.

“You know how oranges taste different at different times of year?” she asked her seat partner.

“Yes,” I thought. There’s nothing more disappointing than a tasteless, or worse, bitter, orange.

“Well, that makes orange juice taste different at different times of year too,” she said.

“That makes sense,” I thought. And then she came out with the zinger.

“Except that every bottle of orange juice you’ll ever buy at the store tastes exactly the same.” Read the juicy details…

Salted Caramels and Sugar Structures

Caramel cooking, by La Mia Cucina

So, I spent a delightful afternoon celebrating the end of the semester helping my friend Nora make her signature salted caramels, which she gives her lucky family every year for Christmas.  While we watched the sticky sweet solution bubble away, she asked me what happens to the sugar to make caramel sticky and fondant, her other favorite holiday candy,  so smooth?

I knew that we could find the answer in the science of sugar molecule structure, different methods of cooking, stirring, and cooling sugar syrups result in different sugar structures when the candy cools.  Continue reading

Enzymatic sex appeal

By Emily Eggleston

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For the curious thinker, the slow apple eater, and the chemistry lover, the brownness of an apple is bound to pop up. I am here to reveal the sexy truth behind the discolored fruit. A bronzed beach bod and an over-aerated apple acquire darkness by producing the same pigment. Science communicators eat your heart out.

Since you were a small child, you’ve known apples turn brown in the open air. Even with a simple chemistry background, you might guess that oxidation is the culprit. And yes, oxygen plays a role, but let’s dig deeper. Read on to flesh out the truth

Artisanal sausage’s charged relationship

By Emily Eggleston

If there’s one thing a science education teaches you it’s that pH is crucial. The concentration of hydrogen ions has everything to do with, well, everything. So I wasn’t too surprised to find that pH is the star of the show in old world dry sausage techniques.

During an interview with Jeff Sindelar, assistant professor and meat extension specialist at University of Wisconsin – Madison, I was looking for a more explicit explanation of the science involved in artisanal meat curing. Turns out, it comes down to diffusing a very charged relationship between meat and moisture. To smoothly convince water to walk away, it’s important to understand two things: the chemical nature of water and the effect of pH. Ooo, tell me more!