Gelatin is a versatile ingredient that can be used to
thicken soups, bind candies and whip up cream. But it's most
appreciated for creating these refreshingly fruity gelatin desserts.
Unflavored gelatin is an odorless, tasteless and colorless thickening
agent made from the collagen protein
found in animal (veal
bones, cartilage and skin. When dissolved in hot water and then cooled,
it forms a jelly.
Gelatin is a common ingredient in both homemade recipes and commercial
products because it's useful for so many purposes. It's a thickener for
soups, gravies and jellies, a binder for dairy products and candies, a
clarifier for beer
and a whipping agent for mousses
and whipped cream.
Sometimes gelatin is employed in reduced-fat foods to improve mouth
feel and volume without adding calories
. Its most popular use is in
foods that are formed into shapes for appearance or presentation, such
as icings, chiffons, and of course, the ever-popular gelatin dessert
(commonly referred to as the trademarked name, Jell-O).
Before the introduction
of commercial gelatin in the late 19th century, jelled dishes were not
very popular. Home cooks had to make their own jelling agents by
laboriously boiling calves' feet or knuckles.
Varieties and Buying Tips
Unflavored gelatin is available in granulated or leaf forms. Granulated
is sold in boxes of 1/4-ounce envelopes at most supermarkets. It may
also be sold in bulk at natural food stores.
, sold in packages of paper-thin sheets, is usually only available at bakery supply stores or specialty shops.
Powdered, sweetened gelatin dessert mixes
are also available in a wide
range of flavors including lemon
, black cherry
. Regular and sugar-free (low-calorie) varieties
are sold at supermarkets in 3- or 6-ounce boxes.
Unused gelatin will last indefinitely if wrapped airtight and stored in a cool, dry place.
• One tablespoon of gelatin is generally enough to gel two cups of liquid.
• Soak gelatin in cold liquid for 3 to 5 minutes before dissolving
it. This swells the granules so they'll dissolve smoothly when heated.
• Don't let a gelatin mixture boil
—this destroys its ability to set.
• To prevent fruits and other added ingredients from sinking to the bottom, stir them in after the mixture has partially set.
• Certain fruits containing the enzyme bromelain
will not allow gelatin to set properly. These include raw figs
kiwi fruit, fresh pineapple