Jell-O Update

Jell-O, that sweet kid’s treat, for many of us still conjures up threats of hospital food, or perhaps memories of the dreaded marshmallow-studded lime mold.  There was a time I even struggled with jellied cranberry sauce, especially when it was sliced and served right out of the can.

Maybe it’s the kid in me, but I still like the idea of Jell-O.  Especially during this summer heat wave we are experiencing, I’m looking for nearly anything that is refreshing, cool, light, easy―in no particular order.

Top of my list these days:  fresh berries.  Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries… they are everywhere and I can’t get enough of them.  Since I’m spending more time dreaming of ways to enjoy them, beyond from my tiny freezer, it’s inevitable that gelatin considerations would eventually surface.  With its natural suspension capabilities, gelatin is an obvious vehicle for my berry mania.

But seriously, Jell-O needs an update:  something beyond refined or synthetic sugar based, dye laden, and artificially flavored.  Good idea, bad execution.

A few facts:  gelatin is a protein collagen derivative from animal bones, skin, connective tissues (an industry issue for many animal rights advocates). As a healing agent gelatin can improve hair and skin quality, strengthen nails, and aid in joint and bone health.  It can act as an appetite suppressant, soothe the tummy, and even promote sleep.

I recently revisited good old Knox Gelatine to give it a try as a simple fruit/juice bundle and I’m pretty happy with the results.  Besides no sugar, flavor additives or color, it contains 6 calories, 0 g. carbs per serving.

If Knox Gelatine is an issue, there are other options: consider Great Lakes Gelatin, a kosher beef gelatin from grass fed cows, free from preservatives or added sugars, minimally processed. Or, agar-agar powder,  a vegan option preferred by many.

With all the new fruit drinks on the market, coming up with a fruit and juice combination is actually fun.  Of course, the ratio of liquid to fruit will change based on amount of fruit used. Since I like plenty of fresh fruit, to the point it is nearly packed, I was scrambling for additional containers.  To unmold, warm the container briefly in warm water, loosen edge with knife, give it a jiggle and flip it out.

Final wrap:  here’s an extremely unscientific comparative between mango Jell-O with raspberries and apple juice/gelatin with raspberries/blueberries.  For both, I used small individual yogurt containers, let them set for 3-4 hours and unmolded them into parfait glasses.   Results:

The Jell-O:   sweet, the mango flavor tasted artificial; in combination, they masked the raspberries’ fresh flavor.  The color was a bright gold and showcased the fruit nicely; it held its shape well, almost rubbery.

Mango Jell-O & Raspberries

Mango Jell-O & Raspberries

The Gelée:  the apple tasted mild but fruity.  After the Jell-O, it seemed bland and not sweet enough. It improved after the second or third taste, and the flavors of the raspberries and blueberries really popped   The color was natural but pale in comparison; it held its shape, though not as resilient as Jell-O.  Final note, the apple juice was a basic off the shelf supermarket brand.  I would recommend a good organic variety, perhaps a filtered variety.

Raspberry & Blueberry Gelée

Raspberry & Blueberry Gelée

Raspberry & Blueberry Gelée

Raspberries suspended in apple cider are a model here.  Use any appealing combination of seasonal fruit and fresh juice. Figure one envelope (1Tbsp) gelatin for every 2 cups liquid.

Ingredients

1 packet Knox Gelatine
½ cup water, divided:  ¼ cup cold water (or liquid), ¼ cup boiling water
1 ½ cup complementary excellent quality chilled fruit juice of choice: apple cider, mango, cranberry, pomegranate, etc.
2 cups (or more) washed fresh fruit:  raspberries or other berries, grapes, cut up plums, peaches, etc. or any combination

Method

  1. Soften gelatin in ¼ cup cold water for 1 minute.  Add ¼ cup boiling water and stir to dissolve the granules completely.  Stir in cold juice.
  2. Fill 3-4 individual 1-cup molds, parfait glasses, or a 4-cup mold with fresh fruit.  Pour the cooled liquid over the fruit.  Cover to keep fruit below surface and chill until set, 3 to 4 hours.
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Farmers’ Market Life in Austin

Bird's Eye Market View

Bird’s Eye Market View

Yesterday was market day at the Austin Downtown Farmers’ Market, part of Austin’s Sustainable Food Center network.  I’m told it is one of the largest in Texas, and although not packed with vendors, there was still plenty of variety to choose from.  Good things are happening in the realm of charcuterie, too; we found more than one source for such delicacies as duck, quail, and goose.

Springfield Farm IMG_0076

I am such a sucker for arugula, I jumped on a huge bag of tender greens offered by Springfield Farm out of Moulton, Texas, about 90 miles to the southeast.

And that’s nothing in Texas.  Many vendor’s farms are considerable distances away and think nothing of making three or more weekly trips to work the circuit of popular markets.  Even with outlandish transport costs this is just part of doing business in these parts.

I was impressed with the wildflower honey at Austin Honey Company.   Their creamed honey is just that: light and incredibly smooth, showing a mixture of floral notes―which change, based on the bees’ grazing tendencies at any given time of year.

Lemon Ginger Shrub MG_0117Another discovery came from the Shrub Drinks booth, where co-owner Cynthia Guido jokingly cracked that “they aren’t selling bushes”.  No, they are marketing a wide variety of artisanal drinking vinegars apparently enjoyed way  back in early Egyptian days (i.e., a long time ago).   In 17th century England and during colonial times shrub was used as a way to preserve fruit.  The resulting bitters-like syrup was used in beverages with water or soda or as a mixer in alcoholic cocktails.

Much later back at home, we put our feet up and treated ourselves to tall icy glasses of  Pelligrino water infused with Apple, Lemon, & Ginger Shrub.   Ah yes, very refreshing indeed―after another grueling day at the market.  What a life.