Gelatine and Aspic
To get the most nourishment of gelatine, which is not a complete protein. Meat, fish, eggs, nuts or milk may be added to enrich its value. To get the most allure, never use too much. The result is rubbery and unpleasant. The finished gelatine should be very quivery, not rigid when jostled.
It is sympathetic to all foods except fresh or frozen pineapple, which contains a substance that inhibits gelling. Cooked pineapple presents no problem.
Gelatine is full of tricks. It can turn liquids into solids to produce gala deserts and gala moulds. It makes sophisticated chaud-fraud and ingenious marshmallows. It also makes a showcase for leftovers and keeps delicate meats and fish in prime condition for buffet service.
Chopped and used as a garnish or cut into fancy shapes, clear gelatine adds sparkle to many dishes. Gelatine also gives a smoother texture to frozen desserts, to jellies and cold soups. It thickens cold sauces and glazes, and in sponge and whipped deserts, doubles the volume. Gelatine dishes must of course, be refrigerated until its ready to use. And in buffets, they are best presented on chilled trays or platters set over crushed ice.
While gelatine must be kept cold, it should never be frozen unless the fat content of the recipe is very high - as in certain ice creams. Gelatines power to display moisture is due to its bloom or strength. In household gelatines this is rated at 150 and means that the contents of 1 package of unflavoured gelatine or about 1 tablespoon can turn about 2 cups of liquid into a solid.
Gelatine often comes ready to use in granules, but the most delicate fish and meat aspics are made with stocks reduced from bones, skin and fish heads. It also comes in sheets. High sugar concentration retard gelatinisation and reduce thickening power.
Unless a recipe is exceedingly acid, 1 tablespoon of gelatine in 2 cups of liquid should produce a consistency firm enough to unmold after 2 hours of chilling- if the gelatine is a clear one. But it must get 4 hours of chilling if the gelatine has fruits, vegetables or nuts added to it. Also, allow proportionately more jellying time for large, as opposed to individual moulds. If you prefer a less firm texture, use 1 tablespoon of gelatine to 2 ¼ to 2 ½ cups liquid. These gelatines will not mould but are delightful when served in cups or in coupes. If you are doubling a gelatine recipe that originally called for 2 cups of liquid, use on 3 ¾ cups in the doubled recipe.
Soak sheet gelatine until softened in cold water before using and wring out excess liquid before adding it to the medium which is to be thickened. If using granulated gelatine, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of gelatine granules over the surface of ¼ cup cold water and without stirring let it soak for about 3 minutes and until it has absorbed the moisture and is translucent. Have ready just the boiling point 1 ¾ to 2 cups stock, fruit juice, milk, wine or water. Combine with the soaked gelatine and stir until dissolved. You may allow the dissolved gelatine to cool at room temperature over a bowl of cracked ice or in the refrigerator but not in the freezer, as a gummy look is apt to develop and the surface miserably. It is interesting that gelatines will begin to weep if exposed too long to high temperatures.
If you do not want to subject the liquid in the recipe to high heat or reduce its flavour and vitamin content, use a double boiler and sprinkle 1 tablespoon gelatine over ¼ cup of cold water. Dissolve this mixture over not in boiling water. Add to this dissolved gelatine 1 ¾ to 2 cups 75 liquid and stir well. 3. I you are in a hurry and are making a gelatine that calls for 1 cup water and 1 cup stock or fruit juice, you can prepare the gelatine as in 1 above, boiling your cup of stock or fruit juice and then stirring about 8 large or 10 small ice cubes into the hot liquid to cool it. Stir the cubes constantly 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the unmelted ice. Let the mixture stand 3 to 5 minutes. Incorporated the fruit or other solids called for, and mould.
Aspic is a savoury jelly made from meat stock and sometimes supplemented with gelatine to ensure that it sets. The food has a long culinary history, and appears in the form of moulded dishes, as a garnish, and as a glaze on some foods. It is also notoriously challenging and sometimes smelly to work with, leading some cooks to avoid it, if possible. Aspic is closely associated with traditional French cuisine and formal dining, and enjoyed an explosion of popularity in the mid twentieth century.
Recipes from as far back as medieval England suggest that cooks understood the potential properties of a clarified meat broth. Savoury jellies preceded sweets by a significant number of years. Cooks were making aspic from a wide range of meats and suggesting an assortment of recipes which included it. To make aspic, meat such as beef, pork, poultry, or fish is cooked slowly to make a dense broth or consommé. The broth is strained and clarified with egg white until it is clear. Depending on the meat used, the broth may be supplemented with gelatine to complement the natural gelatine in the meat. Tomato aspic, a variation on meat aspic, is made with tomato juice and gelatine. Unlike regular aspic, tomato aspic is opaque.
After cooking, aspic can be poured into moulds to be used as a standalone garnish, or it can be moulded with a variety of inclusions, typically meats and savoury vegetables. The aspic is allowed to cool so that it sets and is usually served cold, as heat will cause the aspic to liquefy. When used as a garnish, aspic is cubed into small portions to be eaten along with the main meal. When aspic is used in a moulded dish, each diner is offered an individually moulded aspic creation, or a slice of a large aspic mould. Aspic is also used to glaze foods, giving them a glassy look.
The flavour of aspic is savoury and rich, and it is often supplemented with herbs and other additions by the cooks. In appearance, some people find aspic as a main dish a bit unappealing, since it usually takes the form of a solid block with murky inclusions of meats and vegetables. Working with aspic is a good learning experience for cooks who want to explore traditional culinary arts, since it takes time to learn to handle it well. It can also be an interesting topic of conversation at the dinner table, especially when cooks stud it with unusual or fun ingredients.