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Aug 30, 2006 01:49 AM

Boozy Jello...revisiting a childhood treat

Rworange got me all excited w/ her Jello quest and reports here:

You see, JELL-O (the packaged brand) epitomizes carefree summers during my childhood. Days when we would ride our bikes to the public library (I was a nerdy child) or the local 7-Eleven for candy. JELL-O was probably where my love of creating in the kitchen began. My mother worked long hours at her job, and I would surprise her with a tri-color rainbow treat topped w/ Cool Whip that I had started the day before in order to get the meticulous layered effect. While my family seemed so non-American and out of place, JELL-O somehow made me feel "normal." Sorry for getting all sappy and nostalgic, but this gives you an idea of my deep connection to JELL-O.

I have not made JELL-O since I don't know when, but it's been a long time. As an adult now, panna cotta is one of my favorite desserts and I have made that numerous times. I don't think I'll ever make packaged Jello again since I know that it's not very good for me and that powdered, sweetened mix scares me like another childhood favorite, Kool-Aid.

So the idea of taking an old favorite and reinventing it from an adult angle, from the cook that I am now, was a fun prospect. What came together last night wasn't the result of any serious planning but a confluence of just what happened to be in my fridge. Peach juice from Trader Joe's; Peche Lambic (imported from Belgium and bought at Cost Plus); juicy O'Henry yellow peaches from the farmer's market. Here's how it came together:

1-1/4 c. peach juice
2 packets Knox gelatin (would use 1.5 packets next time
)1 c. Peche Lambic (or any other booze like Prosecco, rose wine, etc)
3/4 c. water
sugar to taste (I used superfine)
lemon juice to taste
2 fresh peaches, peeled and thinly sliced

In non-reactive bowl, sprinkle gelatin powder on peach juice and let sit for at least one minute. Heat up water til it comes to a boil. Add to peach juice mixture and stir to thoroughly dissolve gelatin. Stir in Lambic. Sprinkle in sugar a little at a time til desired sweetness is attained. I used about one TB. Squeeze in a little lemon juice til mixture tastes bright and has a nice tartness. Pour mixture into mold of choice (I used a glass loaf pan). Add as many sliced peaches as desired; they will float to top. Cover w/ plastic wrap and let chill in fridge overnight.

Guess what I immediately did when I awoke this morning? To my delight, it had firmed up very nicely and looked pretty to boot. And just like an impulsive, self-gratifying child, I had a sliver of my own boozy jello for breakfast...

Image in loaf pan:

Image on plate (I had this serving after work :-)):

Refreshing and effervescent, this peaches X 3 concoction was indeed peachy. Lemon juice brought out a nice tartness, and the lambic gave it the adult edge. Fresh thyme or tarragon would take it a step further, but not sure if I would like that. Now that gelees are all the rage at upscale restaurants, I could see many uses for gelatin-based creations. Floating some (savory or sweet) in a chilled soup or using as a condiment on top of oysters or sushi could be really interesting...or I may just stick to eating it from the pan for breakfast. ;-


Thanks to Rworange for sparking my reunion w/ this beloved childhood treat!

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    1. You liked it. You really liked it !!!

      I'm having a Sally Field moment here.

      First, to anyone who might not want to use booze, juice can be substituted.

      After mucho experimenting, I'm finding it is 1 packet of gelatin to 2 cups of liquid.

      I looked at your recipe and suspected it might be a bit too firm. I wasn't paying attention once and used three cups of liquid and the jello never set ... but it made a great sorbet-like dessert.

      The amount of fruit doesn't seem to matter either.

      Interesting that you just put the hot liquid right into the pan and then directly in the fridge.

      My last experiment was to use the exact same recipe, with the exact same fruit. The only difference was that one batch I left on the counter to cool and the other batch I used Martha Stewart's ice bath to cool the gelatin.

      Didn't make a bit of difference in the texture. Now I know I can just put it directly in the fridge.

      Liquid to gelatin ratio seems to be the key. Sugar or no sugar ... same results. When you add the sweetener doesn't seem to matter. It can be added after boiling the liquid or before.

      ANY amount of fruit can be used ... stuff it full of fruit if you like.

      I did a really tasty pineapple jello using crushed pineapple. Every bite was chock full of pineapple and very delicious.

      The one thing that I did take away from Martha, is after the liquid (in your case water) boils, add the fruit and let simmer for five minutes.

      This draws out the juices from the fruit into the gelatin and intensifies the flavor.

      I like your idea of not boiling the alchohol to intensify that flavor ... and that answers my question ... will it jell?

      At this point, I'm just going to mix the two cups of liquid together. One cup I'll boil and the other I'll used to sprinkle the gelatin.

      Like you mentioned, this is a great impromptu thing to make when the ingrediants happen be there. TERRIFIC way to use up fruit that is maybe JUST a little to ripe to eat plain.

      I bought a flat of strawberries and, of course, there are always a few less that stellar berries. I made the jello. It seems so healthy too ... gelatin is good for you, fresh fruit, controlled sugar. Anything that tasty shouldn't be so healthy.

      I hope you will try some variation using the blackberry recipe. I have dreams about that it was so delicious.

      Nice pictures. I enjoyed your jello memories, too.

      I'm toying with the idea of throwing some edible flowers in the mixture for color.

      4 Replies
      1. re: rworange

        Yes, I loved it, Sally Field! Husband was skeptical (he doesn't "get" Jello like me), but ordered up seconds after sampling a small slice. It's so light, refreshing, and juicy w/ the fruit.

        Sounds like you've been experimenting; thanks for sharing your discoveries. To be honest, I wasn't able to check CH for Martha's recipe or your thoughts before making because husband was hogging the computer. I just sorta made it up as I went along...that tells you how easy it is if it can still turn out.

        Now, looking at the old threads, I do have some questions/comments:

        1. The Knox box says gelatin needs to sit in initial liquid for 1 min. while Martha's says 5 min. I'm inclined to lean towards 5 min., but do you think this makes that much difference?

        2. I wonder if boiling the alcohol is an important step. Much of the alcohol burns off then, and maybe that's a good thing for flavor?

        3. I like the idea of cooking fruit in liquid for a few min. and will try that next time.

        4. Cooling for a few min. might not be a bad idea before transferring to loaf pan. I only boiled 3/4 c. of water to add to 2-1/4 c. of cool liquid, so my mixture wasn't that hot.

        5. I find it interesting that Martha uses a non-reactive METAL loaf pan as opposed to glass. Maybe to prevent cracking? Pyrex glass dishes seem so sturdy and I've only ever used glass for making Jello since childhood.

        6. What are you finding is the minimum time for gelling?

        7. I think edible flowers would look pretty, but I personally wouldn't care for their taste or texture in Jello. Have you tried using herbs?

        8. I started thinking about how a little bit of gelatin might work in ice cream to improve texture, but I've never seen a recipe include gelatin. Anyone out there have experience w/ this?

        1. re: Carb Lover

          Oh goodie ... you asked a number of questions I've been thinking about, especially number 8.

          1. One minute is fine. Don't know why Martha says 5. In fact, I'm not really sure about the why of that gelatin softening.

          I used a different recipe once in the beginning that said one minute and it jelled the same.

          Hmmm ... looking at that recipe again, it breaks it down to the basics I went the long way to get to ... 1 packet of Knox to two cups liquid, everything else optional.

          I use the five minutes, just because the fruit is simmering 5 minutes. It is convenient as long as the timer is running.

          2. I guess boiling the alcohol depends on what the outcome is. If this is for the family, I guess you don't want to introduce the kiddies to jello shooters too early in the game ... and there's the child service authorities to worry about.

          Also, it seems like where you would like the flavor emphasis. Cheap booze, fruity flavor, I'd boil. Starring a good liquor and going for a buzz ... no boiling.

          3. Yeah, that's so good ... especially the blackberries.

          4. That's true. IIRC, even the Jello box says to let it cool a bit ... if for no other reason to avoid burning yourself transferring a hot liquid to another container.

          5. I think in Martha's case she might have been going for the unmolding. It might be easier to get it out of the metal pan. I just use plastic containers since they have covers and are individual portioned.

          Actually I'm a little put out with Martha for making this more fussy that it needed to be. I'll be looking at her recipes in a whole different way in the future.

          One interesting thing is that unlike the packaged Jell-o, it doesn't develop that sort of thick skin on the bottom. I don't know if you know what I'm talking about. The texture of the gelatin is the same top to bottom when making it from scratch.

          6. Minimum jelling time is 2-3 hours. The more fruit, the longer the jelling time, so it runs to the 3 hours. If it doesn't jell after three hours, it won't ever jell. Throw it in the freezer and make sorbet.

          7. That's true about the texture with flowers. The only herbs or spices I tried so far were the basil and the ground chili molido. The chili sank to the bottom and the hot/jello thing felt weird, although I have this great little bit of Puerto Rican pique hot sauce that seems habenero based and I've been eyeing it and thinking what type of fruit it might marry nicely with.

          I don't know. Herbs seem to get to the savory side of jello and I'm not so into jello salads or aspics and herbs might remind me of that. I am thinking mint though. Not sure how.

          8. Ahhh ... just what I've been wondering about. That texture in the frozen jello made me start wondering about that. It seems to soften the texture.

          You can put juice in the freezer and what comes out is hard ice cubes. The gelatin turned it into a sorbet texture. I wonder why that is and it might be interesting to experiment with ice cream.

          I've been googling so far and haven't turned up anything either. The best I found was making popsicles out of jello. I posted about that because I thought that was a great idea, and then found out it was something pretty common.

          If I come across an ice cream dessert with gelatin I'll post.

          Ice cream is beyond my cooking skills or inclinations ... however, this has corrupted me ... I look at all those strawberries in my fridge ... in glass jars and FresherLonger containers ... and I've been thinking ... jam ... I'll bet if I can make jello I can make refrigerator jam ... baby steps.

          Then again, there was the day the stove was waiting for the repair guy and I used a hot plate and set it on fire ... and, uh, breaking the stove itself was my fault too ... maybe cooking isn't for everyone.

          1. re: rworange

            Um, hate to break it to you, rworange, but you're on the the path to cooking!! Sure, you downplay your kitchen prowess and self-deprecate in every HC post, but I ain't buyin' your act. Love of cooking all started w/ Jell-O for me...

            Anyhow, thanks for your responses. I have GOT to try gelatin w/ ice cream even if it goes haywire; I just want to see what happens.

            BTW, just polished off that pan of jello; it was gooooood!

            1. re: Carb Lover

              Did you see this recipe just posted on the malted milk thread?


      2. Your post brings back memories of my first forays into the kitchen! We had the "Jell-o Cookbook" and I can remember spending ages in the kitchen making layered Jell-o desserts in wine glasses. Sometimes one layer would be Jell-o mixed with cool whip, other times the layer would be "whipped" Jell-o. Sometimes fruit added, sometimes not. Oy... I thought I was Julia Child! The best part is that my family totally indulged me and made me feel like I was really cooking! :o)

        2 Replies
        1. re: TorontoJo

          Sounds similar to my childhood dessert making, but we didn't have the cookbook. :-( Of course, I now own a book on the history of JELL-O.

          My favorites were my multi-angled creations that would be created from tilting the glass to various angles using different colors/flavors. Those were my masterpieces...

          And yes, my family went right along w/ it. I don't know if my mom even really liked JELL-O, but she sure acted like she did!

          1. re: Carb Lover

            YES! I did the tilted glass thing, too! I was always particularly proud of those... this trip down memory lane is truly cracking me up. LOL

        2. Great post and great pictures...

          I've yet to make this now much-spoken-about jello. I'll probably get around to experimenting with winter. (I also crave soup in summer--must be the "George" of cooking!)

          3 Replies
          1. re: Funwithfood

            It is my Chowhound trick. If you mention something enough, someone eventually tries it ... and when I get excited about something, I want people to try it and share the deliciousness.

            Hmmm ... what would you make in the winter? I've been thinking of that. I'm thinking fresh pomegranite might be nice.

              1. re: Funwithfood

                Excellent ... no, really ... excellent. I am so there and can hardly wait for blood orange season now ... maybe with a few pieces of blood orange put in just before putting in the fridge. It would give it extra juiciness.

          2. That looks lovely. I will definitely have to try that if I can find time and peach juice. :)

            When I was in undergrad I came up with a recipe for jello shots (yeah, I know) using Knox gelatin and fruit juices. Maybe not so much a recipe as a guideline for proportions. I made margarita jello with limeaid, orange, and tequila; cosmopolitan jello with cranberry juice, lime juice, and vodka; there may have been gin and tonic jello, though I can't remember quite how I would have done that. It was a lot of fun and they were surprisingly tasty.

            3 Replies
            1. re: maillard

              Ooooh ... that cosmopolitan idea sounds so good and I bet it would be an attractive dessert, jelled in a martini glass.

              Like the margarita idea too ... lemon/lime jello, ideedy.

              1. re: rworange

                A cosmo made with pomegranate juice is fantastic, BTW.

                1. re: Funwithfood

                  Everything you make Liza is fabulous!