Jell-O (behind the scenes)

The zine production cycle (well, our zine production cycle) is somewhat haphazard. The research, writing and drawing process tend to happen at different times and paces depending on our joint interest levels and time commitments. All this to say, we had a soft launch party (?) for our upcoming Jell-O zine before said zine even had a finalized script. But when it’s winter break and you have several historical gelatin/ Jell-O recipes burning a hole in your pocket, what you’ve gotta do is invite your pals over for an all Jell-O extravaganza.

Enough prelude, let’s get to the jiggle:

In his book Jellies and Their Moulds Peter Brears provides a history of English Jellies, complete with historical recipes. I was especially intrigued by his description of jellies made to look like eggs, that used actual blown egg shells as moulds. The cook would then set the ‘eggs’ in a clear jelly dome and surround them with candied citrus peel to evoke a nest. None of the historical recipes quite fit my needs, so I improvised. First I blew out the egg shells (I anticipated this being much easier, I think I’m really bad at it!). After sterilizing the shells, I filled them with a basic panna cotta (essentially an italian milk jelly) and let them set overnight.

I turned to the historical cooks to reseal the eggs, making sure all the elements were cool and using butter to seal the hole in the bottom! Then I candied (too much) orange peel to make my nest. The next day I used Ann Reardon’s recipe for clear jelly and poured it into a metal bowl. And I unpeeled the eggs. The act of unpeeling was identical to a hard boiled egg but instead it was a strange gelatin egg, very weird.

Then came the delicate waiting game. I had to wait until the clear jelly was set enough to suspend the eggs and nest, but not too set. I nearly waited too long (the sensation of sticking jelly eggs into a jelly bowl is not one I’ll soon forget). The result was well worth the weirdness. Guests reported that the ‘egg’ texture was eerily similar to actual eggs, but that overall it tasted fine (a rousing success!).

For the remaining gelatin creations, I’ll be brief. My co-author, bewitched by the concept of whipped Jell-O, made a raspberry Jell-O whipped cream pie.

I promise that’s not pepto bismol

I was intrigued by the concept of a fizzy jelly that retained carbonation, so I made a sparkling white wine/apple juice jelly with added raspberry jelly cubes for…color? After upwards of four uncomfortably full bowls of fizzy foam overflow, I successfully filled the various goblet adjacent cups in my possession (and whipped up some gelatin foam for the tops). The result was surprisingly fizzy, like a strange combination between zots, wine and jell-O. Definitely my favorite.

Haley contributed a truly tooth numbingly delightful Jell-O mold made using soda instead of water. I didn’t know things could be that sweet, it wasn’t sickly it was just the most intensely, sharply sweet imaginable. They always say soda will rot your teeth, this is the first time I could literally feel it happening. It had a great wobble.

So is the Jell-O revolution upon us? Will our tables soon be graced with dainty, jiggling, well-contained salads? I mean probably not, but I can’t recommend a gelatin party enough. I won’t do it again soon, but it’s the kind of thing you really should do at least once.