A good celebration calls for ice cream.
For Ohio State University President Kristina M. Johnson’s Nov. 19 investiture ceremony, that meant two original scarlet and gray themed ice cream flavors created especially for the occasion by students in Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).
Guests at a student reception after the ceremony enjoyed more than 14 gallons of Maudine’s Berry Patch and Sloopy Scarlet Smash ice cream, which a team of CFAES food science students developed from scratch to final product.
“It brought me so much joy to see the ice cream being shared with President Johnson and the community,” said team captain Erica Kosmerl, a PhD student in the CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology. She’s originally from Rochester, New York.
“I loved being part of such a fun project,” she said.
Ice cream in hand, Ohio State University President Kristina M. Johnson, second from right, poses after her investiture ceremony with her wife, Veronica Meinhard, second from left; Rafael Jimenez-Flores, right, holder of the J.T. “Stubby” Parker Endowed Chair in Dairy Foods in the CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology; and Ronald Melendrez, left, a graduate student also in the Department of Food Science and Technology. A pleased Jimenez-Flores, who’s originally from Mexico, noted that Mrs. Meinhard, a Venezuela native, “complimented the ice cream in my native language.” (Photo: Logan Wallace, University Marketing, used with permission.)
Also part of the project were several CFAES faculty and staff members, the college’s student ambassadors, and a herd of Buckeye bovines—the 100 Jersey dairy cows living at the CFAES Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory in Columbus, whose milk went into the ice cream.
“I felt pleasure and pride to see President Johnson and the attendees tasting the ice cream and saying we should be selling it because its taste was exquisite,” said team member Ronald Melendrez. He’s a master’s degree student also in the Department of Food Science and Technology and a native of Guatemala.
“I was like, ‘Our hard work paid off,’ ” he said.
“It was really fun to taste-test our formulations.”Erica Kosmerl
A cool idea congeals
That hard work started with an idea, which first came up in conversations between Rafael Jimenez-Flores, holder of the J.T. “Stubby” Parker Endowed Chair in Dairy Foods in the Department of Food Science and Technology, and Keith DiDonato, CFAES’ chief advancement officer. How could students from CFAES participate in Johnson’s investiture events?
“We brainstormed for a while, and I thought it would be a great idea to serve ice cream to celebrate,” said Jimenez-Flores, whose expertise is in dairy food science, technology, processing, and molecular biology.
He next talked to Kosmerl, one of his advisees and his teaching assistant for a course on dairy processing. Together they came up with a plan to invite the students in the course to help. It seemed a perfect fit. The course’s lab sessions on ice cream making are always a student favorite, Jimenez-Flores said.
The students, he said, responded with “maximum enthusiasm.”
From left, team members Carlos Sanabria, Erica Kosmerl, Israel Garcia-Cano, and Celeste Miller—surrounded by ingredients, wielding utensils—pose in the Dairy Processing Pilot Plant in Columbus. “The most gratifying part was being able to work with such a great team,” Kosmerl said. “We all brought our ideas to the table, and watching them come to life was pretty incredible.” (Photo: Kelly Elisar, CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology.)
Six weeks of work came next. The students developed 10 ideas for flavors—strawberry and chocolate chips and maple syrup and bacon were among them—made samples in the Dairy Processing Pilot Plant in CFAES’ Parker Food Science and Technology Building, evaluated them based on important traits such as processability and sweetness, then narrowed the list down to the tastiest contenders.
Maple syrup and bacon, alas, didn’t make the cut.
Jimenez-Flores said the team’s goal was to choose just one flavor to produce for the investiture, but “we failed and decided to have two final prototypes.”
“We heard through the grapevine that one of President Johnson’s favorite flavors is lemon ...”Rafael Jimenez-Flores
Tasting, tasting …
From there, the students tested, tasted, and refined the two prototypes—weighing considerations such as melt characteristics, food safety, and optimal flavor—before arriving at their final formulations.
“It was really fun to taste-test our formulations as they evolved each time we made a new batch,” Kosmerl said. “There were a few days where I accidentally ended up having ice cream for lunch, which was pretty fun too.”
Next the team produced about 7 gallons of each flavor at the dairy pilot plant, with key assistance given by Gary Wenneker, the plant’s manager. They scooped and packed the ice cream at the plant too, doing so two days before the investiture ceremony, portioning it into 400 6-ounce cups with clear plastic lids as part of COVID safety protocols.
Student Celeste Miller weighs ice cream ingredients in the Dairy Processing Pilot Plant. (Photo: Kelly Elisar, CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology.)
The last stop was the Ohio Union on the Columbus campus, where the student reception was set to be held. There, commercial-grade freezers kept the soon-to-be-served ice cream “under strict temperature regulations,” Jimenez-Flores said.
A combined effort by the food science students and student ambassadors came up with the names for the flavors. Labels were created for the serving cups, too, with help from CFAES marketing staff. The final products looked the same as ice cream sold commercially. That was part of the plan.
Product development is a “huge area” in the food science industry, Kosmerl said. Producing the new flavors “allowed us to be involved first-hand in the product development process through problem-solving, being creative, and scaling up from small batches to larger production—just as it’s done in the industry.”
For Melendrez, the project gave him an “unmatched experience” in dairy product development. Working in that field, he said, is a dream job after he graduates.
“It reminds me of summertime, picnics, and sunshine.”Erica Kosmerl
Honoring Ohio State’s most famous cow
Maudine’s Berry Patch—flavored with wild berries and hibiscus, and “crowned with royal lemon,” Melendrez said in remarks given at the reception—provided the reddish color for the Ohio State scarlet and gray. The name honors the university’s 1926 homecoming queen, a world record milk-producing Holstein cow called Maudine Ormsby.
“We heard through the grapevine that one of President Johnson’s favorite flavors is lemon,” Jimenez-Flores said. “So we took that little tidbit and worked it into the recipe.”
Maudine’s Berry Patch has a “unique and surprisingly refreshing flavor,” Kosmerl said. “It reminds me of summertime, picnics, and sunshine.”
Maudine’s Berry Patch was named for Maudine Ormsby, Ohio State’s 1926 homecoming queen and a world record milk-producing Holstein cow. “Sadly,” an article on the University Libraries website says, “Maudine’s handlers did not allow her to attend any of the homecoming events for fear that the excitement would curdle her milk.” (Photo: Kelly Elisar, CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology.)
… and Ohio’s official state rock song
Sloopy Scarlet Smash, its name notwithstanding, served as the gray for the scarlet and gray. A rare color for ice cream, the hue came from Oreo cookie powder. Also included were peanut butter and a dotting of red chocolate chips. The name invokes “Hang On Sloopy,” a favorite song of Ohio State fans and Ohio’s official state rock song.
Melendrez called Sloopy Scarlet Smash his favorite of the two. He said its flavor reminds him of the peanut butter he puts on his breakfast toast.
For now, the team doesn’t have any plans to make more of either flavor. The production runs of both of them were polished off at the reception. But Jimenez-Flores said he’s open to talking about it—to scale up production then sell the Buckeye-made flavors at CFAES’ Parker Dairy Store, for instance, or Ohio State’s dining locations. Getting funding for such a venture would be key, he said, adding, “Where there’s money, there’s a way.”
In the end, Jimenez-Flores said he got the most satisfaction not from eating the new ice cream, not from envisioning its commercial potential, but from seeing his students’ dedication and enthusiasm as they pitched in together to create it.
“I was like, ‘Our hard work paid off.’ ”Ronald Melendrez
In addition to Kosmerl and Melendrez, the team included students Carlos Sanabria, Celeste Miller, Silvette Ruiz-Ramirez, Grayson Craig, and Holly Huellemeier, and postdoctoral researchers Israel Garcia-Cano and Diana Rocha-Mendoza.
Their work, Jimenez-Flores said, was “by far the most impressive proof that we have caring and competent students in food science.”
Story by Kurt Knebusch, CFAES Advancement. Top photo by Kelly Elisar, CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology.