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TIP OF THE DAY: Jell-O Shots For Your Valentine(s)

How about gelatin shots as a treat for Valentine’s Day? Use unflavored gelatin and other drink ingredients to turn your favorite cocktails into solid form.

The alcohol-free version, Jell-O Jigglers, uses Jell-O for flavor and color; and engendered the return of a very old recipe—popular among young ladies in the 1860s, popular among all youth in the 1980s and beyond.

For the record:

  • Jell-O shots are made with Jell-O and alcohol. The flavor comes from the Jell-O; alcohol is substituted for one-third to one-half of the cold water. Any spirit can be used; vodka and tequila seem to be in the majority of recipes.
  • Gelatin shots or jelly shots are made with unflavored gelatin. Spirits and other flavorings are added to emulate a cocktail or punch.
  • Jell-O Jigglers are made with no alcohol: just Jell-O made with much less water, promoted by Jell-O in fun shapes, although jiggly cubes are fine.
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    THE HISTORY OF JELL-O SHOTS

    Many of us think of Jell-O shots as the creation of fraternity culture in the late 1980s. But the first published recipe is more than 100 years older: alcoholic punch turned solid with gelatin. You can find it in the original cocktail recipe book published in the U.S.: Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide of 1862. You can still buy it (reprinted) on Amazon.com.

    That recipe used generic, unflavored gelatin. Thanks to some pretty crafty sleuthing on the part of JelloShotRecipe.Blogspot.com, you can see a photocopy of the first known recipe for a molded gelatin-alcohol combination.

    They may have been forgotten by the cocktail culture, but in the U.S. Armed Forces in 1950s, they were made as a subterfuge to consume alcohol on the alcohol-restricted Army bases.

    The brand of flavored, colored gelatin called Jell-O was invented in 1897. Marketed as a light dessert, the product’s success began to wane in the 1960s; by the 1980s the company needed to revitalize the brand.

    The marketing team pored through older cookbooks and discovered what they renamed Jigglers, adding new excitement to the brand with the fun-shaped finger food snacks.

    The fun molds created for Jell-O Jigglers charmed children. The concept enticed teens and young adults to add alcohol to the Jell-O and call them Jell-O shots. Simple squares cut from a baking pan sufficed.

    Back in 1862 Jerry Thomas advised: “The strength of the punch is so artfully concealed by its admixture with the gelatine, that many persons, particularly of the softer sex, have been tempted to partake so plentifully of it as to render them somewhat unfit for waltzing or quadrilling after supper.”

    Refined ladies of the time could not be seen downing drink after drink, but the “gelatine punch” nibbles had the same effect as they have today (a.k.a., “drunk on Jell-O shots).

    MODERN JELL-O SHOTS

    Today, Jell-O shots are made in baking pans and cut into squares or fingers; made in theme-shape ice cube trays (hearts, stars, shamrocks, etc.), garnished with edible glitter, coated in hard chocolate, tiered in two or three colors, embedded with berries or cherries, and so on.

    You’ll find endless recipes on line. Note that many, like the one immediately below, are made with plain gelatin as opposed to Jell-O; and are thus technically gelatin shots.
     
     
    RECIPE #1: COSMOPOLITAN JELL-O SHOTS

    Eat your heart out, Carrie Bradshaw! Other people are enjoying their Cosmos in solid form—and they’re spill-proof.

    We adopted this recipe from Jelly Shot Test Kitchen.

    Prep time is 20 minutes plus setting in the fridge; total time 4 hours.
     
    Ingredients For 32 Pieces

  • 1-1/4 cup cranberry juice cocktail
  • 2-1/2 envelopes plain gelatin
  • 1/4 cup Rose’s lime juice (or preferably, fresh lime juice with a half teaspoon of simple syrup)
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • 3/4 cup orange flavored vodka
  • Garnish: 1/4 cup lime zest
  •    

    Pink Champagne Jello Shots

    Cosmopolitan Jello Shots

    Jello Shots Ingredients

    Chambord Jello Shots

    Jello Shot Recipe Book

    [1] It takes more time to turn out a good supply, but heart-shape shots are an extra treat (here’a the recipe from That’s So Michelle). [2] A favorite American cocktail, the Cosmopolitan, transformed into a solid state (photo courtesy Jelly Test Shot Kitchen). [3] Look for fancy ice cube molds locally or online (photo courtesy Craftster). [4] What to do with that bottle of cassis, Chambord or framboise: Make gelatin shots (photo courtesy Sugar And Cream). [5] Get a copy of Jelly Shot Test Kitchen: Jell-ing Classic Cocktails—One Drink at a Time (photo courtesy Running Press).

     
    Preparation
     
    1. COMBINE the cranberry and lime juices in a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let it set for a few minutes; then place over low heat, stirring constantly until the gelatin is fully dissolved (about 5 minutes).

    2. REMOVE from the heat and stir in the liquors, blending thoroughly. Pour into a pan or molds and chill until set, several hours or overnight. To serve…

    3. CUT into the desired shape and garnish with lime zest. They can be served on a plate or tray, or placed in mini-cupcake wrappers immediately before serving.
     
     
    RECIPE #2: JELL-O JIGGLERS

    Because there’s no alcohol for flavoring, Jigglers simply need Jell-O. Here’s the recipe via Craftster.org:

    If you don’t have a flexible mold, you can always make Jigglers—or shots—in an old-fashioned ice cube tray (using the bottom only) or a small square or rectangular pan.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1 package red Jell-O
  • 1 flexible ice cube tray
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • Pam cooking spray
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SPRAY the mold with Pam, blotting any excess cooking spray.

    2. DISSOLVE the Jell-O in the boiled water, stirring to dissolve. Add the cold water, blend, pour into the mold and refrigerate until set, two hours or longer.

    3. POP them out of the molds (the joy of silicon!), plate and serve.
     

     

    Molded Jello Shots

    Maraschino Jello Shots

    [6] For dessert: Turn the recipe into a mold, slice and serve with berries and crème fraîche or mascarpone. This molded “punch” includes crème de cassis, sloe gin and St-Germain elderflower liqueur. Here’s the recipe from Jelly Shot Test Kitchen). [7] For maraschino lovers: a creative idea for shots or jiggles (no alcohol—here’s the recipe from That’s So Michelle).

     

    RECIPE #3: CHAMPAGNE & CHAMBORD GELATIN SHOTS

    This recipe is from Sugar and Charm.
     
    Ingredients

  • 5 cups Champagne or other sparkling wine, regular or rosé
  • 9 packs gelatin
  • 1-1/4 cups Chambord
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • Optional: red food coloring for a darker color
  • Optional garnish: edible glitter
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the Champagne, sugar and lemon juice in a sauce pan. Add the packets of gelatin and let proof for a few minutes. Once bloomed, put the pot over medium heat and bring to a slow boil until the gelatin is dissolved.

    2. REMOVE from the heat and add the Chambord. Pour into a square baking dish or cake pan and refrigerate, covered, for a few hours until set. After half an hour, add the optional glitter.

    3. CUT into squares or fingers.
     

    THE HISTORY OF GELATIN

    Gelatin (also spelled gelatine) has been made since ancient times by boiling animal and fish bones. Aspic, a savory, gelatin-like food made from meat or fish stock, was a French specialty centuries before the dawn of commercial gelatin.

    Beginning in the 1400s, gelatin (protein produced from collagen extracted from boiled animal bones and connective tissues) had been used to make fancy aspics and desserts.

     
    It was a laborious process, undertaken largely by the kitchens of the wealthy, which had the staff resources to undertake it. It relied only on the natural gelatin found in the meat to make the aspic set.

    The next development, commercial gelatin sheets, was easier but still cumbersome: Gelatin was sold in sheets and had to be purified first, a time-consuming process.

    Powdered gelatin was invented in 1682 by Denis Papin. Here’s a longer history of gelatin and Jell-O; and a much longer discussion on Wikipedia.

      




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