Vegan Jello Two Ways: Persimmon and Almond-Honey

When I made my persimmons with Quebec pear dessert wine a few weeks ago I decided to freeze about 2 cups of persimmon pulp for a rainy day. We’ve had a few of those here in Montreal lately, and so before heading into this week’s deep-freeze I thawed them and decided it was time to figure out how to use agar-agar, a natural gelling agent (most store-bought jellos including JELL-O-brand jello uses gelatine made from animals.

While I’m not vegan myself, I don’t eat pig or beef, which are two animals probably found in the emulsifier. It’s actually a very efficient use of the slaughtered animals because the skins, bones and tendons removed in the butchering process aren’t wasted – they’re turned into gelatine that’s used for many purposes besides JELL-O including coating pills, marshmallows, gummy bears, some vinegars and juices, some medical implants, some glossy paper, playing cards, and cosmetics). Scary, huh? Not that the killing of animals is necessarily an awful thing in and of itself according to what you believe, but it’d be nice for a vegan to know that a pig is helping their headache, and it’d be nice to know that your gelatin came from a happy pig or cow that didn’t meet a unnecessarily gruesome end.

So, agar-agar. It’s made from seaweed. It’s high in natural fibre, calcium, potassium, and iron, but you’re not going to get a whole lot of benefit from using just 1 1/2 tsp in the entire recipe below. It doesn’t form a wobbly jello but it certainly does make food jello-y. Good enough. Great, in fact. I got a little obsessed with jello when I got really stomach sick in the summer and then every time I had digestive woes this fall and winter I resorted to it to calm things down, but I’m much happier making my own than even buying the inexpensive boxes at the grocery store. No pig or refined sugar, please.

vegan-jello-agar-agar-persimmon-almond-honey

Agar-Agar Fruit Jello (Almond-Honey recipe follows)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 tsp agar-agar powder (if you can only find agar-agar flakes use 1 tbsp)
2 Tbsp honey or agave nectar
2 cups fruit juice (look for natural, organic juices with no sugar added. It would be a little counter-productive to use a low-quality juice made with gelatine…)

2 cups fresh or canned mixed, drained fruit, optional (my family would often make strawberry jello with canned fruit cocktail. It’s a Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Newfoundland thing. Maybe other places too. Don’t use kiwi or pineapple, apparently. The enzymes in the fruit won’t gel properly. Use the drained juice in place of some of the fruit juice and honey if you like. This is where I used my 2 cups of persimmon pulp, but I didn’t drain it well enough and it didn’t set properly, so be warned)

Instructions:

1. In a saucepan, heat the juice but don’t let it boil. Whisk in the agar-agar and the honey or agave nectar. Stir and bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until the agar-agar is completely dissolved.
Add the fresh fruit and pour jello into a large bowl or flat-bottom baking or casserole dish to set.

Cover and chill in the fridge for about 3 or 4 hours.

Note 1: I cut the jello into cubes and stacked the persimmon jello and almond-honey jello cubes together for presentation, but if I hadn’t had people over for dinner I would have just eaten the jello from the casserole dish with a spoon. Society forces me to have manners.

Note 2: The blog Cook.Eat.Think suggests replacing the fruit juice with champagne or sparkling wine instead of juice then using a champagne flute or wine glass to set. Make sure the jello is sweet enough before removing it from the heat in this case. Every wine is created different. It would also be nice savoury, and I’m planning to experiment with gelling different vegetable purées, but this is supposed to be dessert, so lets not get carried away…

Almond-Honey Jello

1 1/2 tsp agar-agar powder (if you can only find agar-agar flakes use 1 tbsp)
2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (if you use sweetened reduce the amount of honey or agave nectar. Taste and adjust to desired sweetness before pouring into a bowl to set. You can also use plain almond milk and add 1/2 tsp of vanilla or almond extract before pouring into a bowl to set)

1 tbsp lemon juice

1/4 cup honey or agave nectar

1 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions:
1. In a saucepan, heat the almond milk but don’t let it boil. Whisk in the agar-agar, lemon juice, and honey or agave nectar. Stir and bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until the agar-agar is completely dissolved.
Taste and adjust sweetness and, when satisfied, pour jello into a large bowl or flat-bottom baking or casserole dish to set.

Cover and chill in the fridge for about 3 or 4 hours. See Note 1 above for eating instructions…vegan-jello-agar-agar-persimmon-almond-honey

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