Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gelatin

I think I already knew this in the back of my mind.  Maybe I forgot about it or chose to block it out.  But, it wasn't until a recent discussion with friends that I gave a second thought to where gelatin comes from.  I suppose ignorance is bliss. So, I did a little research and this is what I found out:

Gelatin is made from boiling the skin, cartilage, and bones of cows and pigs.  *Gasp*  I know.  It's disgusting. Basically, it's the leftovers from factory farming, which I'm completely against. And worst of all, it's in all kinds of things we use everyday:

  • Jell-O
  • gummy bears
  • make-up
  • medicine capsules
  • marshmallows
  • jelly
  • yogurt
  • rolls of film

I could be overreacting. Imagine that! I guess it all "boils down to" whether or not gelatin is harmful to our bodies.  I really don't know the answer. In researching the health risks, I actually found health benefits.  Gelatin supposedly strengthens skin, hair, and joints.

I'm going to continue researching this.  If you're like me and you're a little taken aback by all of this, here are some gelatin alternatives I've found:

Agar-Agar
This flavorless gelling agent, derived from cooked and pressed seaweed, is available flaked, powdered, or in bars. For best results, grind the agar-agar in a coffee grinder or food processor and then cook it, stirring it regularly until it dissolves. When used in a recipe, agar-agar sets in about an hour and doesn't require refrigeration to gel. For a firmer gel, add more agar-agar, and for a softer gel, add more liquid. And don't worry if you don't get it right the first time—you can fix a faux pas simply by reheating the gel. Here's a general guide on how to use agar in recipes:
• Substitute powdered agar-agar for gelatin using equal amounts.

• 1 Tbsp. of agar-agar flakes is equal to 1 tsp. of agar-agar powder.

• Set 2 cups of liquid using 2 tsp. of agar-agar powder, 2 Tbsp. of agar-agar flakes, or one bar.

• Keep in mind that highly acidic ingredients, such as lemons, strawberries, oranges, and other citrus fruits, may require more agar-agar than the recipe calls for. Also, enzymes in fresh mangoes, papaya, and pineapple break down the gelling ability of the agar-agar so that it will not set. Cooking these fruits before adding them to a recipe, however, neutralizes the enzymes so that the agar-agar can set.


Carrageen
Also known as Irish moss, this seaweed, found in coastal waters near Ireland, France, and North America, is best when used for making softer gels and puddings. To prepare carrageen, rinse it thoroughly, and then soak it in water until it swells. Add the carrageen to the liquid you want to set, boil for 10 minutes, and remove the carrageen. One ounce of carrageen will gel 1 cup of liquid. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on gelatin, possible health risks, and alternatives.

Good News! There are gelatin-free gummy bears out there!

Jessica

3 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Jess, I doubt you can find one thing that doesn't have a negative side. God made things for our consumption. Everything in moderation. (That is where I fall short. I doubt you will find anyone who has died from eating jello or gummy bears. LOL

Shayne said...

my fig tree will be full of ripe fruit near the end of july... i've wanted to try making sugar free preserves since the first summer in this house... maybe i'll experiment with agar-agar and stevia??

on the other point... i have previously allowed myself not to think about the how's and sources of food, but my attitude is shifting...

Aaron said...

I once made homemade marshmallows. First you dissolve the gelatin. That was probably one of the most disgusting smells ever!!! And when I thought about what the gelatin was made of, it really turned me off to eating them. So, if I make them again, I will definitely be using the agar-agar. I have made a fruit salad that had cubes of green tea made with agar-agar. Very refreshing!