Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Do You Know What's in Your Jell-O?

Well, gelatin of course. I know, I know. But what is gelatin made of?

While at park day with some of our homeschool friends, one of my vegetarian, military, homeschool friends (I have more than one that wears those same hats) mentioned that she had found a Kashi substitute for a commonly known cereal that her family likes. I inquired about the substitution and she said that the common brand had gelatin in it. Being somewhat new to the vegetarian community, I was still in the dark and asked why gelatin was a problem. She told me that gelatin was not vegetarian. I was shocked! What the heck was gelatin made of?

So being the skeptic that I am, I came straight home and Googled "what is gelatin made of," and low and behold, she was right!

According to HowStuffWorks, gelatin (specifically that used in Jell-O) is made of collagen. Oh, good. But wait, isn't collagen found in the human body?

So good of you to ask. Why yes it is. Collagen, used to make gelatin that is found in products such as Jell-O, is made of ground up animal parts, particularly cow or pig bones, hooves, and connective tissues. Gross!

Check out the HowStuffWorks page on What exactly is Jell-O made from? It is very enlightening.

Well, needless to say there will be no more Jell-O in this house, or gelatin for that matter, which is a bummer because I have several really good family recipes that use boxed Jell-O and they are really yummy. I'm really going to have to check the labels on any convenience foods we buy to try to avoid gelatin. Gelatin is smuggled into all sorts of foods that you wouldn't normally think of. Check out that yummy frosted, rectangular, wheaty cereal (they come in mini and regular) that is frosted on one side...you know the one. Just so you know, the Kashi version doesn't use gelatin.

One of my vegetarian, unschooling, home-birthing friends (yes, I have more than one of those too) said that Agar Agar was a seaweed based gelling agent that worked well. The Vegetarian Society has several suggestions for substitutes for gelatin.

So before you shake down that package of Jell-O to make that dessert, consider where it came from. Do you really want to be eating gelatin, not to mention all of the artificial colors and flavorings?

Just some food for thought...in this case, literally.


Fred said...

Jaynelle, agar is indeed the best alternative to gelatin. Best because it is a source of calcium and fibers. But you will have a hard time getting the same amusing jiggly effect unless you mix with pectin. Not easy, huh?
Well, may I suggest that you pay a visit to jelaia.com if you don't mind and if you want to be advised when we launch the first ever organic, kosher, vegan jello?
Stay tuned!

Deva said...

Yep, it is gross, huh? Also don't forget about about marshmallows, I have to admit that my kids don't miss much being vegans, but they do miss marshmallows. There are some vegan alternatives but they are very expensive and not easy to find.

I used agar agar to make some lovely lemon bars, but I haven't done much else with it. We were never jello fans so I can't say we have used agar agar for real gelatin desserts.