Putting food back in the freezer after it thaws causes ice crystals to grow, imparting the unwelcome crunchy texture and mildew-like taste of freezer burn. Now food chemist Srinivasan Damodaran of the University of Wisconsin–Madison has derived an edible antifreeze from papaya enzymes and gelatin. His concoction, which stunts ice-crystal growth, promises always-creamy ice cream and juicier T-bones, even after their third trip between icebox and table.
While studying gelatin, Damodaran realized that its protein is similar to the one that keeps the lowly snow flea from freezing in Arctic temperatures. To isolate the molecule involved, he mixed the gelatin with papaya enzymes, which are excellent at freeing proteins from other cellular material, and separated all the protein chunks by size. Then he mixed each batch with ice cream. The final step was to subject the dessert to a series of temperature changes until he found the one that remained ice-crystal-free.
Damodaran still wants to better understand how the proteins work, but a patent for the process is in the works. In a few years, ice cream with a beard of frost should be a relic.