Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Many Uses of Gelatin

What!? A blog post on gelatin.? Yup. I was laying in bed this morning thinking about Thanksgiving dinner and the lovely and delightful Jell-o salad I made. It's my favorite thing at the table and I made it just for me. However, this year those dang kids of mine found out how simply marvelous it really is....and they ate it. They fought over it even and the salad that usually lasts for a couple of days for ME, was gone in a day. So unfair.

I thought about making some Jell-o for dinner tonight and I have an ample supply of Jell-o but my family inhales it making it a rather expensive luxury for those little buggers. I was thinking about the fact that I could take fruit juice and make my own Jell-o using unflavored gelatin and how would I do that. I do own unflavored gelatin but have never really used it.

Well, that's not exactly true.

I have a confession to make. I'm rather embarrassed but since it's been two decades ago, I think I can stand the shame. Once, in college, I was seriously jonesin' for some chocolate chip cookie dough. We had no eggs, but we had unflavored gelatin. WHAT? That doesn't even make sense. Moving on....I happened to read the box and found out that you can use unflavored gelatin as a replacement for eggs. Yes, I did. I made the dough without the egg and WITH the unflavored gelatin. I think the cooked cookies would've tasted better, but alas....I ate the dough anyway. Sick, huh? Those days are behind me now and I thought I'd expand on the wisdom of having some unflavored gelatin in your home storage.

• Unprepared gelatin has an indefinite shelf-life as long as it is wrapped airtight and stored in a cool, dry place.

• Keep gelatin dishes refrigerated until ready to serve to maintain their gelatinous state.

• Do not add fresh or frozen pineapple to gelatin or Jell-O. These fruits, along with raw figs, kiwifruit, guava, ginger root, and papaya contain an enzyme called bromelain which breaks down gelatin causing it to lose its thickening properties. The enzymes are deactivated by cooking, so canned pineapple and kiwi are fine to use.

• To avoid clumping, dry unflavored gelatin should be mixed with a little cold water first for 3 to 5 minutes to moisten and separate before adding hot water.

• Thicker stock and a more delicate flavor results from using veal bones rather than beef bones since the veal has more collagen which gels the stock.

• Store gelatin desserts in a covered container to avoid the formation of a thick rubbery skin on the surface.

• Too much sugar can inhibit gelatinization. The more sugar in the recipe, the softer the resultant gelatin will be.

• Firmness varies on the ratio of water to gelatin and temperature. You can successfully melt down (gently using a double-boiler) and re-chill gelatin several times before the mixture loses its thickening ability.

• Gelatin takes twice as long to dissolve when used with cream or milk.

• When using sugar with unflavored gelatin, mix the sugar and gelatin first before dissolving.

• To suspend fruits, meats, or vegetables in gelatin, chill until it is the consistency of cold egg whites. Then mix in the additions and chill until completely set.

• Be sure to drain all solids of their liquid before adding to gelatin to avoid watering down the gelatin.

• For 2 cups of gelatin mixture, allow 1 to 2 cups of solids, either minced, cubed, or cut into small pieces.

• To easily unmold gelatin, spray the mold with cooking oil before filling. If you want to avoid an oily film which might cloud the surface by using oil spray, simply rinse the mold with cold water prior to filling. Or dip the mold into warm (not hot) water to the depth of the gelatin for 5 to 10 seconds, loosen edges with a knife or spatula, and unmold. Return to the refrigerator for 20 minutes to refirm.

• Use 1 envelope (1 tablespoon or 1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin to 2 cups of water for standard firmness. Decrease or increase water for your particular needs. One 3-ounce package of flavored, sweetened gelatin needs 2 cups of water. One tablespoon of unflavored powdered gelatin equals 4 sheets of leaf gelatin.

• Two hours of chilling should be enough for standard clear molds, while it may take up to 4 hours for those with additions. Layered gelatins will take longer, since each layer must be individually chilled and firmed before adding the next layer.

• If you are doubling a recipe originally calling for 2 cups of liquid, use only 3-3/4 cups of liquid in the doubled recipe.

• Other liquids can be used in place of water to prepare gelatin, including fruit juices, clarified vegetable or meat stock, wine, vegetable juices and seafood broths.

• Do not bring gelatin mixtures to a full boil or you risk losing its thickening properties.

Tips taken from:

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