When I was little my mother always had small packages of jelly in the kitchen closet. Small packages called Freia gelé which were incredible sweet and probably contained tons of artificial ingredients. The only thing you had to do was add boiling water to make jelly.
Nowadays I have banned these packages from my life. They will never enter my life again now that I have discovered how simple it is to make jelly. And how much better it taste. When using fresh fruit or berries, jelly is a truly fine dessert.
You can make jelly from all sorts of fruits and berries (except kiwi and pineapple) or by using a quality fruit juice. Strawberries, raspberries or elderflower in the summer. Passion fruit, oranges or clementines in the winter. If you want to elevate the jelly dessert even more, you may add champagne or whole berries.
In Medieval England jellies were one of the showstoppers at banquets, but these jellies were a far outcry from what we are used to today. They were meatjellies containing fish or meat, sometimes hiding a whole fish. Everything to impress the guests and showcase the host. As time went by sweet dessertjellies became more common, but aspic is a ”leftover” from earlier times.
Before the production of gelatin was industrialized, it was a time-consuming and messy process that required the slow cooking of pig’s feet or veal knuckle. Still gelatin is made from boiling pigs or cattle (it is a byproduct of the meat and leather industry), but if you want a vegetarian option go for agar agar instead.
Here I make a winter jelly inspired by Jamie Oliver, clementine jelly with fresh ginger. Jamie serves the jelly with yogurt, but I opt for vanilla custard sauce. I also add some lime and oranges to enhance the flavour. Remember to make this dessert the night before, as the jelly needs the night to set.
Clementine jelly with ginger (makes 5-6):
400 ml orange juice (about 4 oranges)
small piece of fresh ginger (about 3 cm), grated
60 g sugar
300 ml clementine juice (about 10 to 12 clementines)
juice of 1/2 lime
5 leaf gelatin
1. Bring 100 ml of the orange juice to boil in a pan with the sugar and ginger. Let simmer gently for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, squeeze the juice of the rest of the citrus fruits.
3. Soak the leaf gelatine in a bowl with cold water, about 5 minutes.
4. Remove the pan from the heat. Squeeze the water out of the gelatin and place in the pan. Stir well to dissolve the gelatin.
5. Add the rest of the citrus juice. Allow to cool, then pour into serving glasses. Leave overnight in the refrigerator.
Vanilla custard sauce (makes 5-6)
1 vanilla pod
500 ml full-fat milk
4 egg yolks
50 g sugar
1. Split the vanilla pod lengthways. Scrape out the vanilla seeds and place both seeds and the pod in a small pan with the milk. Bring to boil and take off the heat and leave to rest with the lid on.
3. Separate the eggs and leave the yolks in a bowl. (Do not throw away the egg whites. Use them to make pavlova or these Italian almond cookies). Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar with an electric hand mixer until fluffy (about 1 minute). Add the hot milk while beating with the electric mixer.
4. Pour the mixture back into the pan on low heat. Heat the sauce until it thickens while you continuously stir with a whisk. It is finished when it coats the back of the spatula. Do not allow the custard to boil, as it will curdle.
5. Leave the pan in cold water if you want the custard to cool down quickly. When cold, remove the vanilla pod.
If you are unlucky and the custard curdles, you may still use it. It will still taste wonderful.