Saying that Gelatin has a checkered and often controversial lineage is an understatement. The word alone exerts an irresistible and often unwelcome pull back to the 50s block party and sisterhood meeting days when a gelatin mold dish of some sort was de rigueur. Gelatin molds were all the rage then; they looked anywhere from downright funky to vaguely menacing. And let’s face it, sometimes they looked downright gross. Boy I’m so glad I was never a guest at a table where the hostess proudly served her … um… interesting canned-vegetable jell-o mold! I would first have had to practice my poker face in front of a mirror!
The History of Gelatin
I highly recommend Sarah Grey’s informative and edifying article on the subject, Social History of Jell-o Salads: The Rise and Fall of an American Icon
“Few foods can tell us more about life in 20th-century America than the wobbling jewel of domestic achievement: the Jell-O salad”
Jell-O as emblem of social status: Jeez Louise! Who knew?
Generations before ours frowned on messy salads and worked hard on neatly shaped dishes. Tossed salads were not cool: Imagine that! Sarah Grey writes: “Jellied salads, unlike tossed ones, were mess-free, never transgressing the border of the plate: “A salad at last in control of itself,” Shapiro writes. Cooks in this era molded everything from cooked spinach to chicken salad, with care to avoid the cardinal sin of messiness”
The story also describes why and how the infamous molded dinner fell out of fashion and out of grace. All I can say is, Thank Goodness, the Neat Dish Brigade is gone now! It died hard, I know. But the coast is clear again: bring on the fresh free-form salads and the mason jar desserts!
Gelatin is obtained from cooking the collagen (bones) of pigs, cows or fish. In other words, verboten to the Kosher public and quite a few others. Both Halal and Kosher-keeping consumers steer clear of pig-derived products. And vegetarians and vegans stay away with a vengeance from all of the above.
But we want our Jell-O and eat it too!
So food manufacturers came up with an all-chemical look-alike: carrageenan, sugar, artificial flavorings and colorings. And sure enough, Bingo! Kosher Jell-O that looks and gells and jiggles exactly like its bovine and porcine counterpart, shimmering in all its garish fake jewel color glory, nutritionally and gastronomically worthless. Sorry but I’ll pass.
For a period of time, it was made somewhat more accessible for the Kosher Food Service to obtain real kosher gelatin. Who remembers the now extinct Kolatin Brand?
Enter Fit Gelatins Brand
I have always been tinkering with gelatin and all its possibilities. My research on the subject recently led me to Fit Gelatin Brand. Fantastic product. I had the pleasure of chatting with the lovely owner, David Holzer. He confirmed what I had been reading in an article in the OU Magazine but somehow could not wrap my head around: here is the excerpt that is the greatest game changer for us Kosher Consumers:
This special kosher gelatin is made exclusively from the skins of kosher ritually slaughtered cows. Strikingly, this variety of beef-derived gelatin is considered pareve, and may even be combined with dairy ingredients! Although kosher laws are very strict concerning the segregation of milk and meat, the processing of these hides renders them pareve. Therefore, even kosher milk chocolate delicacies can be made with kosher beef gelatin. Orthodontists of the world rejoice: every sticky gummy treat is now available to the kosher consumer.
WOW, right? This phenom is what is called in the Food Industry “denatured”. Gelatin originated with beef, pork, fish, but processing the bone collagen, then cooking it to obtain the gelatin, denatures beef, pork or fish as we know it. It is now much too far removed from its primary sources, in other words, denatured, and can be used for anything, dairy, meat or fish, as it is 100% Pareve.
Vegans and Gelatin
Strictly speaking, the animal source having undergone a process that denatures it, Vegan diners could use it. Those who do, more power to them. Those who don’t work mostly with seaweed-derived agar agar. It takes a little more know-how than its no-fail animal-derived counterpart. Gelatin is easier and more guaranteed. It is also worth noting that agar agar, unlike animal-derived gelatins, has none of the protein animal-derived gelatin is abundantly endowed with.
How do you procure Fit Gelatins Products?
The line caters primarily to Food Service and Food Manufacturers, and this is why you might find their site very scientific and technical, to the point of seeming arcane. https://fitgelatins.com. For the same reason, they have no social media presence. Do not let that daunt you: they work with private cooks too! Their complete contact info is on their site: order directly from them! A pound of gelatin seems like a lot, but you will use it in many dishes and find the size and the cost very effective. They will ship directly to you.
What are the gelatin applications?
The ancient addition to the modern kitchen.
Just think of all of the great stuff you can make with Gelatin! Incidentally, their line includes fish-derived gelatin as well
- Very high in protein: throw it in broth or smoothies. Think of the people who go through a period of time when they cannot have a proper solid meal (treatments that inhibit appetite, poor growth, mothers recovering from childbirth, elderly frail people Etc)
- Very low in calories: it will be your best friend when you plan nutritious meals the calorie-conscious way
- Very easy to use: once you mix the gelatin with cold water to activate (bloom) it, you can then heat it very briefly, then do anything you want with it
- Thickening a sauce: a smidgen of gelatin will suffice to turn your reduced sauces unctuous and creamy
- Preventing frozen desserts from freezing solid
- Cake decorations
- Ideal for uncooked desserts. And no eggs needed for emulsifying!
- Immune-boosting gummies. Play with all your favorite flavors and shapes!
- Its uncooked source, collagen, also in the Fit Gelatin Line, is priceless for smoothing skin, strengthening bones, hair and nails. (Just to be clear: Collagen will not gell. Only cooked collagen, gelatin, will gell)
Some of my Favorite Gelatin Treats
Luckily, we have buried the scary looking retro dishes that “graced” every table until recently. They come back to torment us only in our dreams sometimes: perfect for Halloween!
The Rise and Fall and Return of Gelatin
The New Look New Age Gelatin dishes look trim, clean, streamlined, youthful and inviting enough even if you are a long way from Senior Citizen Status.
Jigger of chilled bone broth, anyone?
Below I am selecting some of my biggest crowd pleasers. In several instances, I am using existing links from reputable sites, with all due credit. Likewise, I am not selecting gelatin recipes that require a lot of skill and practice. I want to get you started with simple no-fail recipes you will adopt in your kitchen, using Fit Gelatin in all recipes that list gelatin.