Monday, November 10, 2014

Ribband Jelly (Ribbon Gelatin): An 18th Century Recipe Uses Natural Colors to Give a Beautiful Look!

Ribband Jellies (Ribbon Gelatin)

Ribband Jellies (Ribbon Gelatins) were made by layering gelatin in a variety of different colored bands.  They were served in beautiful glasses to show off the layers of colors. I have always been fascinated with the natural coloring agents available in the 18th century.  Therefore, I have recreated an 18th century recipe for Ribband Jelly using many of the natural food dyes available at that time. 

I will admit that I used modern Knox gelatin instead of isinglass or calves feet since I am really more interested in the colors than the process of making the gelatin from scratch. I also did buy pre-made syrup of violets as I do not have access to culinary grade violets.  I also substituted sanders (ground red sandalwood) for the cochineal to make the red. Sanders were very popular in the Medieval days as a red food coloring but seems to have been supplanted by New World cochineal by the 18th century.  Making this substitution definitely seemed like something that could have been done in the 18th century. I did stick to saffron for the yellow color and spinach for the green color. Finally, I flavored the gelatins according to the original recipe's instructions with sugar, nutmeg, mace, white wine, orange flower water, and lemon.
Here is the Original Recipe:

The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy by Hannah Glasse.   London, 1747
(reprint by Prospect Books, 1995)

Modern Recipe Adaptation
1 1-Ounce Box Knox Gelatin
1 Cups Cold Water
2 Cups Water
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup White Wine
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg (or 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg if you do not have mace)
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Mace 
1/2 Teaspoon Lemon Extract
1 Teaspoon Saffron
1 Teaspoon Sanders (ground red sandalwood)
1 Teaspoon Orange-Flower Water (you can substitute any other flavoring)
1 Tablespoon Spinach Juice (you will need about 1/4-1/3 Cup Fresh Spinach Leaves)

  1. Have dessert glasses ready to be filled.  I used 6-ounce tapered wine glasses from Colonial Williamsburg.  This recipe makes enough to fill 6 6-ounce glasses.
  2. In a large bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water.  Let stand at least 1 minute.
  3. Heat the additional 2 cups of water, wine, and sugar until the sugar is melted.  Add the spices.  
  4. Drain the hot mixture through a cloth to remove the residue from the spices.  Add this directly to the gelatin in the cold water.
  5. Divide the gelatin liquid between four small bowls into four equal portions.
  6. To Make Yellow Gelatin:  Add 1 teaspoon of Lemon extract and 1 teaspoon of saffron to the first bowl.  Let the saffron sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Strain the saffron out of the gelatin.  
  7. Evenly  distribute the gelatin among the dessert glasses.
  8. Place the filled dessert glasses in the refrigerator for as long as it takes for them to set enough for another layer to be poured on top.  This will depend on the the thickness of your layers and the style of the glasses used.
  9. To Make the Green Gelatin:  Add the orange flower water to the gelatin.  In a food processor, blend the spinach leaves with 1 tablespoon water.  Strain the pureed spinach through a cloth.  Measure out 1 tablespoon of this juice and add it to the fourth bowl of gelatin.
  10. To Make the Purple Gelatin:  Add 3 Tablespoons Syrup of Violets to the second bowl. Stir.  This one took longer to set than the other colors; maybe the syrup of violets affected the set time?
  11. To Make the Red Gelatin: Add the sanders.  Stir.  Immediately strain this batch through a cloth to remove the residue from the sanders.
  12. While waiting for the first layer of yellow to set.  Keep the three other gelatin colors in an oven set on the lowest warm setting.
  13. Follow direction #7 & #8 for each color.
  14. You're finally done!
  15. Remember:  You can leave a layer free of color.  You can use whipped cream in place of a color, as well!  You can also experiment with how thick you make each band of color.
Natural Food Colorings:
Spinach, Saffron, Sanders, and Violets

How do the Natural Colors Look and Taste:
All the gelatin colors have a strong taste of the white  wine and the nutmeg and mace spices.  Other than that, there is very little difference between them.

The saffron yellow is a beautiful color and it does taste like saffron.

The green was really easy to make, and I thought it came out the best.  The green is bright, clear, and deep.  There really is no spinach taste at all.

The violet is the sweetest because it contains the sweet syrup of violets; I did not think the color was as vibrant as it could have been.  I will try to make my own syrup of violets next time.

The red was also very easy to do.  I strained the sanders out of the gelatin, but I think I would have strained it a second time.  The sanders does not have a detectable taste.

1 comment:

  1. Very ambitious! I might give this a whirl with just two colors. the red and green. Now where does one find the Sanders? Pretty


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