I’ve been looking for some gluten-free desserts lately and I got to thinking about Jell-o. It was always a childhood favorite. Looking back I think the real attraction was that it was the only food you were allowed, even encouraged, to play with, or maybe it was just the neon colours and all of the sugar. Over the last few years I’ve been learning of the many health benefits from the gelatin contained in Jell-o so I was excited to see it on sale last week for just $0.59 a box. Then I read the package on the strawberry flavoured Jell-o:
Ingredients: Sugar, gelatin, adipic acid, sodium phosphate, sodium citrate, artificial flavour, fumaric acid, colour (E010B).
Okay, to be fair, you could do a lot worse when selecting a dessert but there is a lot of sugar and have you seen how “artificial flavour” is broken down? Listing all of the chemicals involved would fill the side of the box. I believe I first saw the break down in the book ‘Fast Food Nation’ and it looked a little something like this for the artificial flavour in a strawberry milkshake from a popular fast food restaurant:
“Amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenyglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerbate, heliotropin, hydroxyphrenyl-2butanine (10% solution in alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenythyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, y-undecalactone, vanillin, and solvent.”
I really don’t want to consume all of those chemicals even if they are generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by those that produce them. So my ‘jello for adults’ is not made with vodka or shaped into something that you have to hide from your kids ’cause they “won’t understand until they are older”, it is simply a jell-o dessert with less sugar and less additives, a recipe that puts you in control of its contents, of how potent the flavour may be, of how sweet it is, a slightly more natural version and perhaps one you will appreciate if you are trying to avoid some chemical exposure while minimizing your sugar intake.
Okay fine I still bought eight boxes of the $0.59 J-ello, but now I’m moving on…
You’re going to need some gelatin (vegans can find vegan sources, I went with Knox gelatin), some juice and some water. I chose Kedem’s Concord grape juice because it seems to be the most pure. Just two ingredients, Concord grape juice and a preservative (if you can find a better one, use it).
Directions: Bring 2 cups of grape juice to a boil, stir in 3 packs of Knox gelatin until dissolved. Remove from heat, stir in 1 cup cold water (or cold juice if you want a more concentrated flavour), carefully pour into the serving container(s) of your choice and chill until it sets. This could take a couple of hours to set completely in your refrigerator. You can use any juice that you like just don’t use fresh pineapple or the gelatin won’t set.
Want to know about the health benefits of gelatin? Or how it can contribute to healthy joints, skin, bones, digestive track and a healthy immune system? I was going to write about it here but I would just have to quote the heck out of my favorite article on the subject, so instead I’ll encourage you to go straight to the source, the article “Why broth is beautiful” from the Weston A Price Foundation:
Now go ahead – play with your food and feel like a kid again (while appealing to your adult sensibilities). Enjoy!