If you love, or once loved, the giggly texture and sweet taste of Jell-O, you’re in for a treat. Forget the fluorescent green squares of mystery gel from the school cafeteria from your childhood days and the packaged products loaded with artificial flavorings and colorings and refined sugar or artificial sweeteners. I’ve got something better––a healthy and more delicious remake of the 1970s classic––made from three nourishing real food ingredients: 100 percent real fruit, fruit juice, and unflavored gelatin (agar agar if you’re vegetarian or vegan).
This is one of my favorite desserts to make right about now (110 degree plus afternoons in sunny Phoenix, AZ). I love the cool refreshing feel of it in my mouth, that its easy to make, and it doesn’t require the oven, which I don’t like to use much when the temperatures go much over 100 here. You can make it anytime but you'll appreciate it the most during warm or hot weather and probably find it utterly unappealing in cold weather.
Leftovers will keep for several days in the fridge. Serve it for breakfast with eggs and vegetables, in a pack lunch, after dinner, or for a snack. Take it to a potluck or party. You can make it plain or fancy. Chill it in a ring mold, a bundt cake pan, a shallow bowl, custard cups, 4- to 6-ounce wide mouth jars, or any vessel that would make an attractive shape unmolded
or a handy transporter when you want you gel to-go or pour it into a square pan, then cut it into slices.
Kids enjoy eating this with their hands.
Thanks to Stacy Maxwel, one of my cooking students, who helping me tweak this and make it look ever so pretty in the ring molds. She took the gorgeous pictures of this recipe she perfected for her final project in my 5-week Whole Foods Cuisine course.
I usually use Great Lakes brand gelatin, sold in natural foods stores, but you can use Knox unflavored gelatin from a supermarket. They both work equally well. If you’re cooking for vegetarians or vegans, replace unflavored gelatin with agar agar powder (not the flakes); you’ll probably need to special order it from a natural foods store (ask for NOW Foods brand) or contact Fruitful Yield (800) 469-5552 or <www.fruitful yield.com>
FYI: Enzymes in pineapple, papaya, and kiwi may prevent gelatin from setting unless you cook them or immediately immerse them in the hot juice.
Fresh & Fruity Finger Gel (Jello)
Hands on: 15 to 20 minutes/ Cooking: 5 minutes/ Yield: 8 to 10 servings
2 cups cold fruit juice: apple, peach, pear, apple-berry, cherry or white grape juice
2 cups fruit juice heated to boiling (same variety as above)
4 envelopes Knox gelatin or 3 tablespspoons unflavored gelatin
2 to 4 cups fresh fruit (1 fruit or combination of 2 to 3 varieties):
Blueberries, raspberries, mulberries, pitted sweet cherries, sliced strawberries, banana, melon balls, seedless red or green grapes, pitted, peeled, and sliced apricots, peaches, nectarines, peeled and sectioned seedless oranges, or some combination
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, optional
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon, lime, or orange, zest (colored part only), optional
1/3 cup chopped toasted almonds, walnuts, or pecans for garnish, optional
1. Pour 2 cup of cold juice into a shallow bowl or heat-proof 4-cup measure. Sprinkle with gelatin and let stand 1 or 2 minutes.
2. Bring the remaining 2 cups of juice to boil in a medium-size saucepan. Pour the boiling juice over the cold mixture and stir until gelatin completely dissolves. Add the optional vanilla and citrus zest if desired.
3. Have a 5 1/2 cup ring mold, Jello-type mold, shallow bowl, custard cups, wine glasses, or 8 to 10 (6-ounce) bowls handy. Pour the juice into the mold(s), then add the fruit.
To keep the fruit firmer, wait to add it until the juice feels cool to the touch.
To suspend the fruit in layers, line the pan with 1/2 of the sliced fruit, then add just enough of gelatin-juice mixture to cover. Freeze until firm being careful not to leave it in there too long or it will form ice crystals. If time isn't an issue, let it set up in the fridge. Once set, add the rest of the fruit, reserving several strawberry slices or berries for garnish, then pour in the remaining gelatin-juice mixture. If you like, arrange reserved strawberry slices or other fruit in a sunburst pattern on the top (which is really the bottom) and dunk them a bit so they are coated in gelatin.
4. Refrigerate until firm (about 3 hours). If you’re in a rush you can freeze the mold for an hour and then finish it off in the refrigerator.
5. To unmold (skip this step if you chilled it in custard cups, wine glasses, or small jars), have your serving plate ready. Moisten it so you can slide the unmolded gelatin around if necessary. Add warm water to a wide shallow pan (a skillet is great for this) and dip the mold in for 10 seconds to loosen the contents. Remove the mold carefully and place it on a towel to catch the water - quickly turn your serving plate onto the mold. Carefully reverse the entire contraption and the gelatin should slip out. Soak up the gelatin drips with a paper towel quickly before it sets in a blob.
6. Garnish with chopped nuts if desired, and serve. Use within 5 days.
1 serving (blueberry-apricot) without nuts: 110 calories, 3 g protein, 25 g carbohydrate (2 g fiber), 1 g fat, 15 mg calcium, 5 mg sodium
1 serving (peach) without nuts: 103 calories, 2 g protein, 24 g carbohydrate (1 g fiber), 13 mg calcium, 4 mg sodium
* For a softer Jello: In step #1, reduce gelatin to 2 Tablespoons above. In step #2, dissolve 1 tablespoon of arrowroot or organic cornstarch into the cold juice before heating. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 or 2 minutes, until clear.
* For a Vegetarian or Vegan Jello: Replace unflavored gelatin with 1/4 agar agar flakes or 2 teaspoons agar agar powder. After boiling, reduce heat and simmer agar agar flakes for 5 to 10 minutes or agar agar agar powder for 1 minute, to dissolve. For a firmer Finger Jello, use 1/3 cup agar agar flakes or 1 tablspoon agar agar powder.
SOURCE: This is a remake of recipe from my award-winning book, The Garden of Eating: A Produce-Dominated Diet & Cookbook (Planetary Press, 2004), which you can order from this site or from http://www.TheGardenOfEatingDiet.com/