DIY Small-Batch, Artisanal High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Categories: Wake Up Call

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Still from video
For some reason we are, and aren't, that surprised to learn that an M.F.A. student in Brooklyn has created her own DIY kit for high-fructose corn syrup. The artificial sweetener is found in nearly everything we eat and drink, from soda to bread, but is virtually impossible for consumers to buy.

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Artist Maya Weinstein just finished her M.F.A. in Design and Technology at Parsons, The New School of Design and created the totally awesome (in a very ironic, hipster sort of way) science kit as her thesis process. She wants to get funding -- through Kickstarter, of course -- to create more of these at-home kits for complex processed ingredients.


In the video above you can watch Weinstein go through the process of producing her own small-batch, artisanal high-fructose corn syrup, which is about as big a paradox as it gets.

Of course, that's the entire point of the project. As she puts it:

"It's all about doing it yourself, taking the ideas of open sourcing technology and applying them to food. By taking back these foods that aren't ours, deconstructing them and reconstructing them, maybe we can disrupt the industry a little bit."

If you're thinking this sounds like a pretty bogus project to serve as a master's thesis, think again. Not only did it take quite a bit of research for her to even find a recipe for the sweetener, the ingredients were a pain in the ass to find. The most difficult to obtain was glucose isomerase, the key ingredient that turns regular corn syrup into HFCS. The tiny bottle she used in her test kitchen cost her $50 and had to be ordered from a professional research lab-supply company.

The kits cost between $70 and $80 to produce and only yield a small bottle of HFCS. That fact alone is ironic since the main reason food manufacturers use the syrup is because it's so cheap to produce. Much cheaper than sugar, at least, though Weinstien thinks that's because the companies that manufacture the expensive-to-buy enzymes needed to produce it are the same companies that manufacture the corn from which the syrup is made.

Weinsien is currently waiting to find out if Kickstarter will accept her project but hopes to spread her DIY kit as far as she can. Next on her list of "citizen food science" projects are ideas like creating at-home fortified bleached white flour (she's already started on that one) and Red Dye #40.

You can find out more about her project at her website. And hear more about her inspiration for the project in the video below.

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