I Am The Slime

We do lots of fun stuff for holidays at Arkansas State, and though Halloween is just barely more of a holiday than Valentine’s Day, we still celebrate.  We doll the place up with ghostsand goblins and such, we have a costume contest, and we offer a table covered with everyone’s favorite candy–usually about a 1/4 ton of the stuff!

It’s always a bit fascinating what people will do and how selfish they behave. Kids I guess.  They actually show up, having planned for the occasion, with grocery bags and backpacks.  We ask them to leave some candy for their peers, but they don’t get it.  One kid actually had the gall to say that he was taking the bag-full of chocolatey delights back to his room to hand out to Halloween visitors later.  On a college campus?  Come on dude!

Stupid!

This year we did a Ghostbusters theme, and aside from the 6-foot inflatable “slimers”, the windows painted with scenes from the movie, and more miscellaneous Halloween decor (expertly arranged) than any two haunted houses, we did a few desserts with a gross and ghostly theme.

One of the things we wanted was slime!  It had to be slimy, it had to be gross looking, and it had to be edible.  In searching the web for a good recipe all I was able to come up with was more like green pudding, and that’s not what I wanted.

All of the slime I found that looked like “slime” (a close cousin to snot) was made with glue and Borax–hardly edible.  There was one that sounded plausible, but the main ingredient was Metamucil–probably not good.

Then it occurred to me that I’ve got all this molecular gastronomy crap lying around, and surely there’s something useful in it all.  I’ve not always been able to produce beautiful and delicious food with it, but I might be able to produce snot (um…slime)!

I remembered the slicker-than-an-eel sensation that covers my hand whenever I work with xanthan gum and get it wet, and coupled with xanthan’s thickening power I figured that too much of it might just do the trick.  I was right, hooray!

Xanthan gum is a powder that is made of the dead and dried skeletons of millions of little xanthans, and it is commonly used as a emulsifying agent in dressings and cold sauces.  Ever notice how cool store-bought Italian dressing looks with all of the spices and goodess suspended in the normally very unstable mixture of oil and vinegar?  Xanthan gum!

More appropriately xanthan gum is derived from a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris that is responsible for the fermentation of certain sugars and sugar compounds.  It is also the bacteria that is responsible for that delightful sliminess that eventually shows up on the surface of rotting broccoli and cauliflower.

The largest source of xanthan gum comes as a by-product of the corn syrup making process, and the largest consumer of it is actually the oil drilling industry.  For them it is a vital drill lubricant when mixed with mud.

Xanthan gum is also widely used in gluten-free baking where it mimicks the stickiness and body of gluten in breads, cakes, etc.  It helps retain moisture, and gives a more natural structure to ingredients that normally depend on flour for texture and binding.

As I mentioned, it is usually used in cold sauces, but it can be combined hot as well.  It requires no cooking at all, but it remains stable and  consistent at all temperatures.  To emulsify a dressing or similar product the normal usage amount is .5% of the total volume by weight (or weight multiplied by .005).

I have also been using xanthan gum in ice cream for the last year or so.  It acts a a hydrocolloid absorbing excess free water, reducing ice crystals, and resulting in a deliciously smooth and creamy finished product.  The appropriate amount is 1/4 teaspoon per quart, or 1 teaspoon per gallon of base, added prior to freezing.  I usually add it when the cooked base is about halfway cool to ensure proper dissolving and mixing.

You can usually find xanthan gum at most better grocery stores these days.  At my local Kroger the Bob’s Red Mill brand is in the Natural Food section (along with other Bob’s Red Mill and also gluten-free baking products).  We are currently using Albert y Ferran Adria’s “Texturas” brand.  Xanthan gum is called “Xantana”.  That line can usually be purchased on Amazon, or through several modern (or “molecular”) gastronomy suppliers.

The recipe or formula that I came up with is pretty easy, but it makes a bunch!  I will leave it to you to reduce the recipe for your needs, and I’ll do an article on ratios soon.  You’ll need to understand the principle of ratios, but whatever the weight of your syrup you’ll need about 1.25% of xanthan gum (.0125).

Basically this is simple syrup flavored with lemon juice and citric acid, colored as desired, and thickened with xanthan gum.

  • 6000 grams   Water
  • 3000 grams   Granulated Sugar
  • 960 grams     Lemon Juice
  • 35 grams       Citric Acid
  • Yellow and Green food coloring as desired (heavier on the yellow)
  • 120 grams     Xanthan Gum

Combine the water, sugar, and lemon juice and boil for 3 minutes (standard for simple syrup).  Remove from heat, add the citric acid and coloring.  Let cool to room temperature.  Add the xanthan gum and combine well with an immersion blender (stick blender).  I held mine at room temperature overnight, and I imagine that it would hold for quite a while that way.  There’s not really anything in it that would spoil, and the consistency the next morning was exactly as I had left it.

We decorated some cakes with it and served “slime shots” in little disposable shot glasses.  It rolls out of the cup pretty well, and the kids loved it.  Although I think they were drawn to it because they were hoping there was vodka (maybe an idea for another time)!

As Frank (I Am The Slime) Zappa once said…”Keep it greasy so it’ll go down easy”! 🙂