As you may have noticed, we've lately been covering a wide variety of different food and cooking-related topics, from how to season a cast iron skillet, to the types of nonstick coating in cookware, and even the different types of leafy greens available in the winter. We're aiming to produce stellar content that is useful, relevant, and interesting to our readers! So if there's anything you're ever curious about, don't hesitate to ask, and we'll do a post on it!
For today's post, we're taking a look into how gelatin is made. I can remember as a kid thinking jello was delicious, but thought gelatin was gross - pigs feet! Ew! Somehow I never made the connection between the two, when in reality, jello is mostly gelatin, just with some color and flavor added in. So what is gelatin really? Is it actually made with pig's feet?!
The short answer is yes. Gelatin is a product derived from collagen, which is obtained from processing various animal by-products. It is made by boiling skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, hooves and bones - generally from cows or pigs - with water. Gelatin is translucent, flavorless and odorless, and is used in a very wide variety of commercial products. It's most common application is as an ingredients in cooking, where it is often mixed with water or another liquid, and once heated the gelatin is activated and causes that liquid to become gelatinous (jiggly). Gelatin is also used in consumer products, including many bath and body products (shampoo, cosmetics); food products (marshmallows, cakes, ice cream, candy, yogurt), vitamins and medicine capsules, and much more. It is even used to clarify alcoholic beverages, including beer and wine!
While it may seem like a revolting product to some, it does have some benefits. In fact, gelatin actually has 18 amino acids in it, which gives it a nutritional profile that isn't completely awful. Plus, for a cook or baker, there's no product that can act in the same way to achieve a desired result. I recently made a light cheesecake recipe without eggs, and had it not contained gelatin, it would have never come together at all.
For any vegans out there, there is a product on the market called agar agar which is derived from seaweed and has similar properties to gelatin. We haven't given it a try yet, but perhaps we'll explore that in a future post. If you've ever had any experience with it, we'd love to know what you think!