"Jello" from scratch
I'd like to try making my own "jello" to avoid the intense food dyes that are in Jello. I don't object to using sugar or fruit juice. Has anyone had experience of what to use for flavoring agents? I have a bottle of orange oil. Or are pure extracts the way to go? Any help would be appreciated.
Orange juice works very well. When Jello was king, in the Midwest a popular Jello dish was made with orange juice and shredded carrots.
You can use almost any fresh, frozen, or canned fruit to make flavored gelatin desserts Fresh pineapple will not work! Just put the fruit in the blender, then dissolve unflavored Knox gelatin or uncolored agar agar and add enough water and sugar (if needed) to bring the volume up to what is called for for the amount of gelatin you used.
The primary difference between gelatin and agar agar is that agar agar "gels" at about 80F and won't melt again until around 130F which is very handy for gelatins you plan on putting on a buffet table. You can add cream or cottage cheese or make molded salads the same as with flavored Jell-O. But as you say, you won't have artificial dyes unless you add them yourself.
If your local market doesn't stock agar agar (it should have plenty of Knox unflavored gelatin), you'll find it in most Asian markets. It's normally available in "clear" (color removed) or red (natural color of seaweed it's made from), and in sheet form as well as powder. Gelatin is made from animal byproducts, agar agar is made from vegetable matter (seaweed). Oh! Sometimes agar agar is labeld with its Japanese name of "Kanten."
Prolific CH poster rworange went on a homemade "jello"-making binge last summer that began with an inquiry like yours that elicited some very helpful links, and led to some highly successful experimentation and a succint distillation of the process, as well as inspiring other hounds. Take a look at these threads: