Gelatin dishes rose to fame in school cafeterias, at ladies’ luncheons, and at children’s birthday parties.
Gelatin use in the food industry is probably best recognized in gelatin desserts and confectioneries such as gum drops, lozenges, marshmallows, gummy bears and those "fruit leathers" that only children seem to enjoy. It is also used as a binding and/or glazing agent in meats and aspics; as a stabilizer in the processing of dairy products such as ice cream, sour cream, yogurt, and cottage cheese.
Interestingly, a new and major application for gelatin is in the paintball industry. The classic-style "war games" are played out using projectiles constructed of gelatin. Some of us even attempted odd non-food creations such as the aquarium pictured here.
For this IMBB participation I chose a variation on gelo di melone ("watermelon pudding") a smooth and refreshing summertime staple in Palermo that is rarely found outside the region. Historically it is always served on the Feast Day of St. Rosalie, the city’s patron saint. In other parts of the island August 15, Feast of the Assumption is when the watermelons are rolled out. This particularly recipe is a variation because I needed to use gelatin instead of cornstarch which the standard recipe calls for. In this capital city it is garnished with chopped pistachios and shaved chocolate with a fresh jasmine flower as garnish.
Gelo di Melone
Making my first "jello" from scratch was an eye-opening experience. The possibilities with the fresh tastes of summer fruit seem endless.
6 cups coarsely chopped seeded watermelon (from a 4 1/2-lb piece, discard rind) 1 1/2 tablespoons gelatin (this is several envelopes–it’s best to measure it out)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon anise seeds
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
Shelled, chopped pistachios
Shaved Italian chocolate
Purée watermelon in a blender until smooth, then pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-quart saucepan, pressing on pulp and then discarding any remaining solids.
Ladle about 1/4 cup watermelon juice into a small bowl and stir in gelatin until smooth.
Bring remaining watermelon juice to a boil with 1/2 cup sugar and anise seeds, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stir gelatin mixture again, then whisk into boiling juice. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Whisk in lemon juice.
Pour mixture through a clean sieve into a bowl, then transfer to a wide 1-quart serving dish or 6 small ramekins. Chill, uncovered, until cold, about 30 minutes. Cover loosely and leave in fridge until set, at least 3 hours. Can be made can be prepared up to 1 day.
Garnish with pistachios and chocolate before serving.