agar-agar vs. Knox Gelatin
I've seen agar-agar translucent strands in the local Asian market. Sometime ago, I was told that it can be a vegetarian substitute for Knox unflavored Gelatin (made from ground animal hooves?)
Does anyone know how to use agar-agar? The instructions in the wrapper usually says 1 pkg with 60 bowls of water (20 pounds.) I'd like to see oz & cups.
It is indeed vegetarian (made from seaweed), but please be aware that the texture is quite different than regular gelatin. While it is clear like gelatin, it's much "stiffer". I always hated anything made with agar as a child. The candies and desserts always looked so beautiful and appetizing, then I'd bite into it and be... well, grossed out. The best way to describe the texture is that it's crumbly -- you'd chew and chew and the pieces would break into smaller and smaller pieces, but never really dissolve. Ick.
Sorry. Just relaying my personal childhood trauma.
But, if this helps, agar is supposed to be made to about a 7 or 8 percent solution. So 7 or 8 grams to 1 liter of water.
Agar agar (kanten in Japanese) was very popular in Japan last year. It is believed that if you eat a bit of kanten before a meal, it fills you up and you will eat less. Here is a small piece I wrote for Time magazine regarding kanten and its perceived health benefits.
Here is an article I wrote for Metropolis, a local magazine, on cooking ideas for kanten.
As TorontoJo explained, most kanten is very stiff. However, I had caramel kanten jelly today at a restaurant in Tokyo and it was surprisingly soft, like jello.
As to how much water to add, it depends on what kind of kanten you are using, powdered, strings, the blocks, etc. There should be instructions with whatever you have.
> But, if this helps, agar is supposed to be made to about a 7 or 8 percent solution. So 7 or 8 grams to 1 liter of water.
TorontoJo, 7-8% is HUGE - this is why your agar candies were so crumbly. ech!
if you want a smoother, more jello consistency, 0.5% (w/v) is more what you should be aiming for. that is, a 1% solution of anything is 1g to 100mL, so just do the math for any concentration or volume you require.
typical jelly recipes use 1L amounts for several serves. this would translate to using 5g agar to set that liquid for 0.5%. Many places say you can use the same weight of agar as a recipe uses for gelatin, which sounds about right, from what i remember about gelatin.
(measuring grams of powder/flakes/whatever will be the same- just be aware the VOLUME will be different to get the SAME weight - like measuring out 1 pound of feathers vs one pound of rocks).
I've also used a product called Veg-e-gel which works much like powdered gelatin. Not sure what's in it though
I buy agar-agar in the bar form, looks like the shape of a churro. The package contains 2 bars, packaging says it's .35 oz (10 gms). Directions say to boil 1 bar with 4 cups water.
I use agar-agar in a Filipino drink called Sago. It's sweetened water with tapioca pearls and cubed pieces of agar-agar. Yummy!
I'm vegetarian and I tried using agar agar to sub for gelatin in a panna cotta recipe. It did not work well. Either I used too much or I didn't cook long enough for it to fully "melt"/incorporate because the resulting product was unappetizingly chewy. (You can see my thread here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/605840 ).
What I found worked really well is KoJel kosher for passover vegetarian gelatin substitute. It was pretty easy to use and the result was lovely. It comes in a box that looks just like a Jello box with one packet inside.
I thought there were different kinds. I don't have the box anymore but I could swear it said vegetarian on it. Could that be?
ETA: I just checked the thread that I linked to above. There was a bit of a discussion about whether kojel is vegetarian and, indeed, it seems there are different kinds, some veg and some not.
Carrageenan, like agar-agar, is a thickening agent that comes from red algae, but apparently of a different type. I have no idea if it yields a different consistency.
I saw someone boiling "Irish moss", which is the seaweed from which they get agar-agar, as a thickener for panna cotta on PBS Create's show, "Cultivating Life". She also used it to salt and thicken a caramel sauce that went over the panna cotta. The finished result appeared to be of the desired consistency.