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Jan 21, 2010 07:59 AM

A history of gelatin?

Hey fellas. Right now I'm working on a project for a food magazine researching the history and use of gelatin. Thing is, searches of google and the NY Public Library proved pretty fruitless. I wondered if anybody here had insight into the subject, or an idea of some sources to check out to better understand the culinary history of gelatin. Most of what I can find is medical or industrial.

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  1. Are you just interested in the purified powdered (or sheet) form, or all uses in cooking?

    Any time you cook meat, especially parts with skin and connective tissue, in water, you get a gelatin solution. Cooks have been purifying stocks to make aspics long before Knox came on the scene.

    Carpenters have been using hide glue for centuries. I bet anthropologists have identified old artifacts that have been bound with the stuff.

    1. Check out the Jell-o website

      Knox Gelatin site

      Food Timeline

      And IIRC, Cook's Illustrated had an article on gelatin a few years back.
      I would also search for old cookbooks and packaging. Not sure if the library has cookbooks older than the 1850s though. And maybe expand your search with regard to cooking techniques, not just the ingredient.
      Are you using the Mid-Manhattan branch or the main branch? The main branch would be where I'd start. The librarians there are pretty savvy.

      Good luck :


      Hope this gives you a good starting point

      1. There is a great book called "Gelatine Handbook" (2007) by Reinhard Schrieber and Herbert Gareis, published by Wiley-Vch, that will give you a complete history, along with the tons of culinary uses for gelatin. It can be technical, but it is also relative simple when speaking about the various uses... everything from additives in protein bars, cereal bars, spreads, cheese, mayo, low-carb/ low fat products, caramel, deserts, milk products, meats, etc. It gives a complete historical account, all the way back to the ancient egyptians... best of luck!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Knightman10

          I've been looking to get my hands on this book since the start of this thread. I didn't realize it was so useful in terms of history, though. I was wanted it for industrial information. That's pretty exciting that it has both, so thanks!