NULL HYPOTHESIS 14 (Oranges): Sprinkling Splenda generously on orange slices before freeze-drying changes their taste when freeze-dried
Conclusion: We Could Not Reject this Hypothesis
Abstract: We sliced oranges and sprinkled half of them with Splenda and left half of them plain. We froze all of them and then freeze-dried them. Our test subjects tried the sweetened orange slices and the unsweetened orange slices. Three of our four testers correctly identified the sweetened orange slices.
Appx. 3 - fresh oranges
1 Harvest Right freeze dryer tray with a silicone mat
About half cup of Splenda (granulated)
Above: The top photo is of fresh orange slices before freeze-drying (all are without Splenda). I completely messed up and forgot to take photos of either the oranges with Splenda on them or the freeze-dried oranges.
Sliced the oranges using a 6mm slicer attachment using a food processor.
Sprinkled about a half teaspoon of Splenda on each orange slice (BEFORE FREEZING).
Froze the orange slices overnight.
Started freeze drier on the non-liquid, pre-frozen setting (waited 30 mins.)
Once the pre-freeze cycle completed, placed the frozen trays in freeze-drier (with 3 other trays of food; we did one tray of apples and one tray of skittles)
Started the freeze-drying cycle.
Removed orange slices from freeze-dryer
Taste-tested the slices.
Our actual total starting weight of orange slices on the tray was .382 kg on the tray with Splenda and .372 on the tray without Splenda and the finished weight was .043 kg for the tray with Splenda and .071 kg for the tray without Splenda (not including the tray itself).
The freeze-drier completed its ordinary cycle at 20 hours. We added 12 hours because it would have ended in the middle of the night. The temperature scanner showed an approximate average temperature of 89° F. We did not find any cold spots.
We had four blindfolded testers. One could not tell the difference between the sweetened and unsweetened freeze-dried oranges. The other three testers correctly identified the sweetened orange slices.
Although not relevant, the three testers who could identify the sweetened oranges expressed a strong preference for them. We will probably always sweeten orange slices in the future because of the strong preference our testers had for them. Note that we used Splenda instead of sugar because sugar is so sticky that dad didn't want to deal with the extra mess of spreading sugar all over the kitchen. We typically use Splenda as a sweetener.
We messed this test up several times before we got it right! For example, the very first time we tried it we sprinkled the Splenda on the slices after they were frozen. This meant that the Splenda did not absorb and stayed as a layer on top of the orange slices. It made the orange slices look awful once freeze-dried.
Below is a photo of a messed up batch of freeze-dried oranges after we made the mistake of spreading the Splenda after the oranges were frozen so it didn't absorb. ALWAYS SWEETEN BEFORE FREEZING!
It is kind of a race to pull things out of the freeze-drier when it finishes because the food will begin reabsorbing water from the air. In this process, I forgot to take pictures. Now we have a checklist that we use each time we put food in the freeze-drier. We try to make it a habit to use it each time.
Somehow, the weight of the tray of orange slices that was sweetened with Splenda started at .382 kg and ended at .043 kg after the freeze-drying cycle completed. By contrast, the unsweetened tray of orange slices started at .372 kg and ended at .071 kg. There are variations in the weight of our trays and liners and dad has been known to make mathematical mistakes. We may go back again to try to figure out whether this was a fluke, a mistake, or whether something about the Splenda actually helps remove more water during the freeze-drying process.
In a later batch of orange slices, I took photos of the sweetened orange slices. You can see a little bit of Splenda on them, but I think they look splendid!