It’s late summer and days are still steamy and we long for cool, refreshing food, this version healthy jello has been made from agar agar, and hits all right the fruity infusion notes. Especially for my toddlers who would eat jello and freezie pops daily if allowed. I really don’t know why I don’t make this more often, it’s seriously as easy as cracking open a box of the dye, sugar, and artificial-flavored disaster stores sell as fruit jello. Plus it’s just sweetened with honey, which is perfect for children as well.
The texture is different from gelatin, perhaps it could be compared to canned jellied cranberry sauce. Just don’t be like me and walk out of your local health food store carrying a tiny baggie of agar that you paid a whopping $12 for, leaving your husband shaking his head at his crazy food-obsessed wife. Start small and see what you think…it’s pretty cool stuff if you know what you want to do with it!
Concord grapes are coming into season now as well, they are a western NY specialty and occasionally when we make our way out to local farmers markets we are able to bring home 2-quart baskets spilling over with the deep purple fruit. My children still manage to swallow half the tiny seeds inside, or, like Eden likes to do, enjoy peeling the skin off and popping just the juicy interior into her mouth. 100% Concord grape juice is rich with polyphenols and antioxidants and is beneficial for heart, cognitive function, and immune health. While some of the benefits are mitigated by pasteurization and fruit juice would be considered a refined sugar, I think this is rather healthy as far as most desserts go!
Both Chinese and Japanese cultures have been utilizing agar for centuries, I’ve found loads of dessert recipes online, many flavored with rose-water or made opaque with coconut milk. I imagine that while they might be bland to Western tastes, they’d still be refreshing. It’s fun walking into the Asian store and seeing the vast array of boxed agar mixes, as common as our American jello.
Agar agar is a derivative of seaweed, with unique thickening and gelling properties, it’s fun to experiment with because it’s stable at room temperature after the initial setting. As far as its nutritional qualities, agar is a good source of calcium and iron, is very high in fiber. Other properties include better digestion and the capacity to carry toxic waste out of the body. Agar is also considered to reduce inflammation, settle the liver, and bring relief to the lungs.
4 cups organic concord grape juice (or just about any other full-flavored juice)
2-3 tbs. honey
2 tsp. agar agar powder
1. Heat 2 cups of the juice in a saucepan, sprinkle the agar over the juice, and bring it to a boil, stirring frequently to ensure the agar dissolves. Simmer 1-5 minutes.
2. Pour the remaining juice into a large bowl and add the honey, add the heated juice mixture and stir to mix the honey in
3. Pour the juice into molds or into an 8×8 pan. Transfer to the fridge to set and chill. Serve to your kiddies on a hot day, or as I have done, to soothe a sore throat.