Thursday, October 31, 2013

7 Reasons to Make Homemade Jello


I haven't made jello in a lot of years, but that might have something to do with my not being eight anymore, because most kids seem to love food that can move on its own.  I recently decided to try making it from scratch, because various recipes have been all over the blogosphere lately, and when it's made at home, it's a good, easy, source of gelatin and protein.  And why is gelatin important?  Well, here's a great, simply written post about it, and here's another, less simply written one with more science. If you don't want to read those, here's a quick [incomplete] list of reasons to think seriously about adding gelatin to your diet:

1. It helps you sleep better
2. It's helpful for joint health and pain
3. Beautiful skin!  Gelatin is more or less the powdered form of collagen. Crazy fact: collagen in facial creams is actually useless because the molecules are too big to get through the skin.  Eat it instead.
4. It improves all facets of hair and nail health
5. It helps with digestion
6. Anecdotal evidence swears to it helping with cellulite, probably because collagen helps with skin elasticity and firmness.
7. It helps heal the lining of the stomach and intestines...which means it helps with allergies by sealing up the entrances into the bloodstream that are referred to as "leaky gut".

Let's bring back snack time!  And let's do it with real jello, because unfortunately, the ingredients on one of those brand-name packages read like a science experiment:

WATER, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, GELATIN, CONTAINS LESS THAN 0.5% OF ADIPIC ACID AND CITRIC ACID (FOR TARTNESS), SODIUM CITRATE (CONTROLS ACIDITY), NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, RED 40, BLUE 1.

I could spend days researching the issues with food dyes, high fructose corn syrup, and the misleading phraseology of "natural and artificial flavor", but I won't. (I started to, but I'd have to write a book.) I've read a lot of books on nutrition, and will probably read more, but the final decision maker in my kitchen is: is this a whole food, and has it been around for hundreds of years? Commercial jello is not a whole food.  Whole foods are not made out of derivatives of ingredients that are no longer recognizable as their parent ingredient.  Nor are they made from things that you can't make without a science lab.  Let's call this completely different and actually good-for-you alternative by some other title-- maybe Gello?  :-)

This is not a ground-breaking post; similar ones are all over the internet, and it's because it's such an easy, beneficial snack to make.  There are ways to make it even more nutritious than what I'm posting today, but I'm starting easy for both myself and anyone reading this.  :-)

INGREDIENTS for an 8x8 pan:
4 cups juice of choice- the higher quality the better, of course- read your labels!
1/4 c. (4 T.) gelatin

And now let me completely contradict myself by recommending a processed product-- because while you can make gelatin at home, it's much harder to make it have no flavor (not impossible, but not easy).  We make bone broth at our house, but as I've said before, soup is not a popular item here, and so we just plain don't get enough broth (and gelatin) down. I believe in the benefits of gelatin, so I've chosen to use the products below as a supplement to the form of gelatin I can make on my own.

Your typical gelatin on the market isn't necessarily quality stuff, so here are the two kinds I use and would recommend, both of which are grassfed: Bernard Jensen gelatin or Great Lakes Unflavored Gelatin (affiliate links).  They're unflavored.  I have both in the cupboard, because Great Lakes is finely powdered (can be used in drinks without affecting texture) but Bernard Jensen is more of a fine grain, like salt, and has a higher protein content.  Since the recipe only calls for one tablespoon of gelatin per cup of juice, it can certainly be nice to pack a little extra protein in there.


I used grape juice for most of my experimenting, since we had it on hand.  I also made lemon flavored jello out of straight lemon juice and honey, since those were also on hand.










Pour the juice into a saucepan and add the gelatin after the juice is hot. Whisk well as you add the gelatin, if you're using the Great Lakes brand.  Bernard Jensen blends in easily as it heats up, without frantic stirring.









Heat until all the gelatin is dissolved.  I don't bring it to boiling, just to melted and blended.  Do yourself a favor and don't smell this while it's cooking-- hot gelatin smells disgusting, but you'll hardly notice it once it's cold and your kids won't notice it at all.










Pour into dish of choice.  The bubbles on the top are a side effect of the whisking, and you'll want to skim them off (I use a spoon) because if you don't, they stay there, and it's gross.  The jello still tastes fine, but it has a funky texture on top that you won't want to eat.

Set it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes and enjoy!

 Notes:

-This is not a super sweet jello like you might be used to, but I found it sweet enough.  You could add a little sugar or honey if you need to, but I was a little skittish to do that since juice is already high in sugar. It's better just to get used to less sweet being enough sweet.

-If your kids are fans of fruit snacks, Heather over at the Mommypotamus blog has a great recipe for lemon ones.  They use much more gelatin, which is great for getting more of it down with less sugar. Also check out her post on why gelatin is Better Than Botox.

-Need more ideas for how to get gelatin down?  Check out Wellness Mama's awesome list of ideas including homemade marshmallows and gummy vitamins!

-If you're ambitious enough to juice your own fruit, you'll probably want to add some honey or sugar to it, but it's absolutely a viable juice option.

5 comments :

  1. I'm going to the store to buy my ingredients tomorrow. I had no idea that gelatin had so many health benefits.

    Betty Figarelle

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    1. That's awesome, let me know how it turns out!

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  2. I shall have to try this for the kids. What a fun treat and I would never guessed it could be healthy!!

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  3. Making this today with 100% Pomegranate/Blueberry juice.

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    1. How did it turn out? I wouldn't be surprised if that juice might need some sugar...pomegranate is known for being pretty strong flavored, isn't it?

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