Why would a college student blend a couple of crates of strawberries with a vat of water? Not for the mother of all daiquiris, surprisingly, but for scientific research. Jessica Stumin used the mixture, known as a slurry, for her senior research project in chemistry. She then used the concoction in five extraction methods in order to find the best way to distill flavor from strawberries.
The winner turned out to be adding methylene chloride to the mixture. “It separated the slurry into two layers,” says the 2002 graduate. “Since it’s heavier than water, it settled at the bottom taking the flavor components with it.” Once Stumin had these components, she was able to reduce them to a very potent 15 drops of concentrated flavor.
“The methylene produced the most well-rounded strawberry flavor—not too green, not too ripe, not too acidic,” she says.
Her taste for this specialized field has paid off, too, with a job as a product quality technician at Givaudan Flavors in Cincinnati, one of the world’s leading companies in the flavor field. Her goal is to train for the eight or nine years it takes to become a certified flavor chemist.
“I’m in a good starting position that exposes me to all areas of the field,” Stumin says. “I’ve gotten a chance to sample every flavor imaginable—clams, butter, sour cream, malted milk. I even tried one called fatty burger, which tasted like I licked the grill.” Mmm, mmm good.