Only a few of us rely on raw food. The majority acquire calories, proteins, vitamins, fibers and so on on an everyday basis through processed food. What does it contain? How it is made? Today we are going to take a little journey inside the world of food, starting from gelatines.

Why gelatin is used in food

Gelatin is a gelling agent, which means that it is able to increase a liquid’s viscosity, making it thicker and more stable. We add flour or maize to soup, gravy, or pudding, for instance, to thicken it. Now the amazing thing about gelatin, compared to any other edible thickeners, is that it is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. This makes it exceptionally versatile: it can be added to a variety of different foods, from Chinese dumplings to cream cheese, desserts, and meat or fish-based aspics, without changing the specific food’s taste or appearance.

Does gelato have gelatin?

Names can sometimes be misleading. Case in point: a foreign friend of mine, who was enjoying gelato in Rome, suddenly asked, “does gelato have gelatin?No, it doesn’t! The two words just happen to derive from the same Latin word “gelare”, i.e. to freeze, and hence share the first letters. But Italian artisan-crafted gelato is made with milk, cream, sugar, plus fruit, nuts, or other ingredients such as chocolate.

Do jelly fruits and Rice Krispies contain gelatin?

So now we’re clear on gelato, but many other foods do contain gelatin. For instance, some popular breakfast cereals and snacks, such as pop-tarts and Rice Krispies have gelatin. The same is true for marshmallows, gummy bears, and jelly candies. But why do they? What’s the purpose of gelatin?  Isn’t that incredible?

Instant gelatin, cooking gelatin, and how it works

Another fascinating fact about gelatin is that it can be used for cooking, hence with heat, or simply added to the food/liquid as it is. Cooking gelatin is available in granules, sheets, and as a powder, while instant gelatin comes as a powder or in sheets. Jello, beloved by most US children, is a great example of flavored instant gelatin powder. Gelatin sheets for home use generally need to be soaked in water prior to use. The way gelatin works with liquids and heat is fascinating and shows how versatile it is. In fact, gelatin soaks up 5 to 10 times its weight in liquid, creating a gel that can be melted by heating.

Foods that contain gelatin

Candies, fruit jellies, gelatin desserts, candy corn, and marshmallows all contain gelatin, as do trifles, aspics, and Bavarian cream. Gelatin is also employed to enhance the texture of cream cheeses, yogurt, margarine, and snacks. This is why Kellogg’s Rice Krispie Treats Squares and Frosted Pop-Tarts have gelatin. It is also used to add volume and improve the palatability of fat-free foods and clarify apple juice and vinegar. As concerns candy, confections, and packaged snacks, gelatin not only ensures perfect textures, it also guarantees elasticity, chewability, and long shelf life. Wondering whether Turkish Delight has gelatin in it? Not homemade Turkish Delight: the authentic one made from scratch is lush and chewy thanks to the almonds and honey in it! 

What gelatin actually is

Nowadays, most people are aware that a lot of foods contain gelatin, and surf the web to look for more insight into what it is made of. As it appears, the key question often is “does gelatin have pork in it?”. The answer is it could, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. Let’s look at the facts in detail, starting with what gelatin actually is. Gelatin is a collection of peptides and proteins produced by partial hydrolysis – a chemical phenomenon by which molecules of water break chemical bonds – of collagen extracted from animals. The industrial process that leads to gelatin is complex, includes a variety of different phases, and calls for hi-tech machinery.

Is gelatin a colloid?

In scientific terms, gelatin is identified as a hydrogel, that is to say, “a cross-linked hydrophilic polymer that does not dissolve in water” as defined by Wikipedia. It is a colloid because the protein molecules it comprises are significantly larger than most dissolved molecules, but “remain evenly dispersed throughout the water”, Reference explains.

So does gelatin have pork in it?

Historically, the animals whose parts were used to extract the collagen to make gelatin included bovines, i.e. cattle, chickens, pigs, and fish. Today, the gelatin industry’s leading players focus on producing bovine and fish gelatin. These, in fact, prove to be the best, most sustainable, and most effective sources.

Bovine gelatin 

High-quality bovine gelatin is made by partial hydrolysis of the collagen contained in cowhide. The protein is extracted using water and then filtered and sterilized. The result is a pure, natural protein compound that comprises 18 amino acids, 8 of which are essential. The best bovine gelatin is preservative and allergen-free and contains no artificial additives.

Is bovine gelatin halal?

The world’s most important beef gelatin manufacturers produce halal bovine gelatin, certified by the Islamic authorities of their countries, as well as certified kosher gelatin. Halal gelatin powder and kosher gelatin powder are both very much requested, so it’s great to know that they are quite easy to source.

Fish gelatin

Fish gelatin is an excellent product because it is virtually transparent and white. Also, fish is a potentially sustainable source, provided that the manufacturers carry out constant and attentive audits of the suppliers and/or breeders where they get their raw materials. Fish gelatin can be used to produce certified halal gelatin powder and kosher gelatin powder.

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