the Jellomaniac's Manual

Volume 5-B - Frequently Asked Questions

Rev. 07-May-1997

Introduction | A-E | F-P | Q-Z | Non-alc. | Other Recipes | Pudding | Tips | FAQ | History | Flavors | Want Ads | Links | Gallery | Index | liquor | misc. ingredients

This is Volume 5-B - Frequently Asked Questions.

Frequently Asked Questions.

What is Jell-O, anyway?

Jell-O is an American brand name for a powdered gelatin fruit-flavored dessert mix. ("Flavored Gelatine Dessert" is what Knox coyly calls the breed.) You add boiling water to dissolve the mix, then more cold water, then you refrigerate it to make it "set." It will become almost solid. It is like pudding, but clear (transparent) and fruit-flavored.

"Jell-O" is a brand name from one company. The other companies that make the same thing call it "Gelatin Dessert." The ingredients in a box of Jell-O include sugar, flavors and colorings, and gelatine.

As an aside, Jell-O got its start in my home town of LeRoy, NY. It was invented there and sold door to door until our town tycoon bought the recipe and patent for a couple hundred dollars. It was produced for the longest time in town (a large factory on North Street that still stands) and was later sold to General Foods. And the rest, as they say, is history. Yes, there is even a Jell-O museum in town.

Thanks again!

May 1994, Bill Andrews (rit.edu)

What is Knox Unflavored Gelatine?

Gelatine is made from animals used for food. (Do you want to know the details?) It's basically finely-ground toenails. You've nibbled on your own fingernails with no ill effects; it's essentially the same thing.

Knox Brand Unflavored Gelatine is a convenient way to use the stuff, a packet at a time. Each small box of Jell-O has the equivalent of one packet of Unflavored Gelatine in it. So, if you want to mix up some Fruit Punch Gelatine using Knox packets and some fruit punch you like, you just need to set aside one packet for every two cups of juice.

This is a good time to point out that when things get cold, it's harder to taste them. (This is why you should let your ice cream soften a bit before you eat it, by the way.) Anyhow, if you've ever made popsicles by freezing orange juice and noticed that they didn't taste as strongly flavored as "real" popsicles or as a regular glass of (the same) orange juice, keep that in mind when you roll-your-own gelatine. I would recommend using concentrated juices, and reconstituting them double-strength - that is, only add half or so of the water called for. Or, work with this effect instead of against it, as I do in Kelly's Whisky Jell-O made with Minute Maid Lemonade. (The lemon flavor retreats to the background, letting the whisky flavor take center stage.)

How do I use unflavored gelatine in place of Jell-O?

"I prefer to use Knox unflavored gelatine and would appreciate all help in converting Jello-O recipes. For example, when a recipe calls for one small box of strawberry Jell-O, what substitution can I make using Knox? Thank you!"

A small box of XYZ Jell-O jells two cups of liquid. And, the Knox "Fruit Juice Gelatine" recipe (on the side of the box) calls for 1 envelope of dry gelatine per 2 cups of liquid.

So there's your equivalence. Any time you see a reference to "small box of Jell-O" use a packet of unflavored gelatine, and substitute fruit juice, fruit punch or fruit juice cocktail for the water used in the recipe. You may need to add sugar as well.

Another approach: mix up your fruit juice or fruit drink from frozen concentrate, but don't add as much water as the can calls for. Then you can try boiling that and Knoxifying it.

Finally, something that I've pondered but haven't tried: mixing up a batch of Kool-Aid and using that in place of the water in the recipe, and one packet of Knox per small box of Jell-O in the recipe. That might do the trick too. (You may want to reduce the water specified in the Kool-Aid instructions, e.g. make it double-strength.) Anyone want to try it?

March 1996, for Eileen Herman (washington.edu)

What is in gelatine? Is it Vegetarian? Is it Kosher?

"Anyone care to clarify just what is in gelatin? Is it true that horse hooves are the primary ingredient?
"Hey, could you please help me. A friend of mine will not eat one of my favorite recipes because it contains Jello and she says that it is made from animal hooves. Is this true or some dumb rumor?
It's partly true. Jell-O and Knox Unflavored Gelatine are animal products, but not from horses. If she's eating Vegan, then the answer is: no instant Jell-O. I understand it's basically ground-up cow hooves and skin.

It's certainly not "vegan" in the usual sense. As far as Kosher, some reform rabbis have ruled that if the animal origin is completely unrecognizable, it's allowed. Another rabbinical opinion is that as long as the bones are completely dry before processing, it's okay. (You can buy kosher gelatine in Israel, that apparently is processed that way.)

Kraft General Foods has a line of pre-made snack products that are made from the vegetable stuff (carrageenan, mostly) that come in different flavors, are vegetarian, and do not require refrigeration. So she should be able to eat those.

As far as your cooking: nothing works quite the same as animal gelatine. There are some Israeli Kosher "Quick Jelly" instants out there, which are made with vegetable jelling agents (such as carrageenan or agar-agar), but they definitely behave differently than the gelatine we're used to - last time I made some, it was starting to thicken while it was still warm. For more on their product, see the Israeli Jelly section.

A word about Kosher and Kosher marks: Anyone can put a "K" on a box. The symbols to watch for are... ummm... I have them around here somewhere; I think one of them's a U in a circle, another's a K in a six-pointed star.

March 1995, for George David 'Merlin' McCallion (asu.edu);
October 1995, Geoffrey O. Strebel (clarkson.edu)

What will make it not set?

What's the truth about enzymes, alcohol, citric acid? Do not use fresh or frozen pineapple, kiwi fruit, figs, mangoes, guava or papaya, or fresh ginger in gelatin. All contain an enzyme that keeps gelatin from setting. All are fine, however, if cooked or canned.

The most common question I get about the tiddly Jell-O is, doesn't the alcohol keep it from setting? The answer is no, not as such, because I don't use just alcohol. I believe that pure alcohol will not jell, the same way it won't freeze. But the alcohol doesn't act as a catalyst (the way the fresh pineapple will); there just needs to be enough water to react with the gelatin and firm up.

And if you read the first paragraph, you'll learn it's not the citric acid in the pineapple that keeps it from working. You can used canned pineapple, if you want to; you can also use oranges and so forth with impunity (or panache, if that's more your style).

Don't add too much water! Make sure you have all of the gelatine in the bowl! If you only dump in half of the package (by mistake), the jello won't set -- because there's too much water for the amount of gelatine. If you try to add the rest of it later, when the water is no longer boiling hot, it won't dissolve... and it (1) won't set *and* (2) will have bits of grainy texture to it.

What will make it firmer?

The secret to jelling is nothing more than the ratio of gelatine to liquid. (This is why just adding liquor to a batch of Jell-O doesn't work; you need to take out as much liquid as you add.) The "standard" proportions is one small box (or one Knox packet) for every 2 cups of liquid. Decrease the liquid by 1/8 (back it off 1/4 cup for every 2 cups) for moulding; that will make it just a little firmer so it will retain its shape when you demould it. Cut the liquid in half, or double the gelatine, for "Jigglers" or "Knox Blox." Note that you can accomplish that by adding one packet of Knox to every small box of Jell-O. Knox even has a recipe for that - Knox Blox With Flavored Gelatine Dessert.

Will it melt?

Eventually; anything will melt if you get it hot enough. When a batch of regular gelatine reaches room temperature, it will melt. If you make it extra firm, it will take longer. If you're using one of the Israeli or other vegetable jelly mixes, it may stay solid at room temperature; I don't know for sure if that's because it's a vegetable product, or if it's because they add lots of it for the amount of water they call for. I suspect it's the former.

The long and short of it: If it's going to be warm where you're going, keep it cool.

Will it freeze?

Ah, you've stumbled onto my secret. It does. I sometimes will try to use the freezer to get it cold faster (and therefore jell faster). By the time the gelatine itself is nice and firm, it's started to accumulate frost on the top; it will get kind of crunchy as the liquid freezes.

Remember that soda pop will freeze if you leave it in the freezer, too.

Is Jell-O 1-2-3 still available?

Jell-O 1-2-3 was still in current production as of January 1996, albeit not appearing on every supermarket shelf. You could try calling Kraft General Foods at the number on the box (1-800-431-1001) to find out a market in your area that carries this product.

January 1996, Marilyn J. ("Jell-O Lady") Felling (aol.com)

How do you prepare Jell-O 1-2-3?

After adding the boiling water, the mixture was blended for 30 seconds, then blended at high speed for 1 minute, then add a cup of ice water and blend on high for 1 more minute. You fill each glass HALF FULL, then refill the glasses completely in the same order. It "automatically" separates into 3 layers upon chilling. Basically they call this gelatin with 2 toppings (on the box). Molding this product is NOT recommended.

January 1996, Marilyn J. ("Jell-O Lady") Felling (aol.com)

For another recipe similar to Jell-O 1-2-3, but made with easier-to-find ingredients, please see Sherbet 1-2-3.

Introduction | A-E | F-P | Q-Z | Non-alc. | Other Recipes | Pudding | Tips | FAQ | History | Flavors | Want Ads | Links | Gallery | Index | liquor | misc. ingredients

The Jellophile / C.M.J. (Chaz) Baden / hazelweb at boston-baden.com

Chaz ("Hazel") Boston Baden [Hazel]