Saturday, June 2, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Jello

Remember those bright red, green, and blue jello jigglers that decorated your plate as a child? Jello happened to be one of my favorite foods as a child.  I loved jello.  That is until as an adult I learned a truth of the jello making process that has forever changed my love affair with my dear jello.  Those yummy jello jigglers are held together by no other than gelatin.  No big deal, right? Well if you love jello and you don't want to be tainted forever please stop reading here. Close this post and walk away.  I had to add a warning for the jello lovers out there. 

This seemingly harmless gelatin is actually  derived from the bones and skin (hide) of pigs and cows.  The production of gelatin begins with boiling the bones, skins, and hides which releases collagen.  This collagen is then processed and dried and used in shampoos, cosmetics, coating on vitamins, on photographic film, and to thicken jello and puddings.   Take this gelatin and add some artificial sweeteners and food dyes and you have yourself some brightly colored jello.  Not exactly the mix I want my girls to be ingesting on a regular basis. 

I was excited last summer when I started discovering other alternatives to making jello.  Turns out there is this amazing little substance called Agar Agar that does the trick and no animal bones or hides are involved.  Agar Agar is a vegetarian gelatin substitute produced from a variety of seaweed vegetation.  Agar agar is actually a combination of various sea veggies and just like any other gelatin, it can be used to firm up jellies, pies and puddings. It simply dissolves in hot liquid and thickens at room temperature.  It is sold in health food stores, and comes in both flake and powder varieties.  It's not an inexpensive purchase so if at all available try purchasing it online or from a co-op.  This makes it much more cost effective.

This particular version of jello was based on one of my favorite spring time combos, strawberries and rhubarb.  It creates a bright, pretty color with no food dyes added.  A pan of this doensn't last long around our house.

I hope you enjoy a fun twist on the traditional jiggly jello!

Strawberry  Rhubarb Jello (veganized)
  • 3 Rhubarb Stalks
  • 2 cups Strawberry Puree***
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Honey or Pure Maple Syrup for sweetness
  • 1 1/2  tsp Agar Agar powder
1.  First make a simple Rhubarb sauce.  Finely chop Rhubarb and add to a saucepan with 1/2 cup of water.  When fibrous stalks become stringy and mushy, it is done and you have yourself a tasty little rhubarb sauce.

2. Add the strawberry puree to the rhubarb sauce and heat up. 

3. Add the Agar powder and sweetner of choice.  Bring to boil.

4.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the Agar is dissolved. 

5. Poor into 8x8 pan and cool for several hours. 

6.  Cut and enjoy!

***I made strawberry puree by blending strawberries with a little bit of water.  The more water the thinner the puree and less dense the jello.  Use any leftover puree for smoothies.

 ***Another option is to use jam. I have done this as well and it makes a thicker jello which is quite tasty as well.

***Juice can be substituted to make other flavors.  I would recommend omitting the rhubarb in that case because it is just an extra in this recipe.  This leaves the door wide open for all sorts of interesting flavor combos.

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