In it's pure form, gelatin comes either as gelatin sheets, or as powder. Pig skin is the most common source to make gelatin. Cows, animal bones and collagen can also be a source. The protein is obtained by boiling these items in water. Beef gelatin is also available. Kosher gelatin is controversial and it's acceptance depends on how strictly the kosher diet is followed. It is also derived from beef and must be sourced from kosher certified beef or fish. Unfortunately there is no source of vegetarian gelatin as vegetable gums do not mimic animal gelatins in composition or reaction.
The name Gelatin is derived from the Latin word galatus which meals jellied, froze. The history of gelatin goes back to 1647 when Denis Papin recorded experiments that resulted in a method of removing the glutinous material as a product of boiling animal bones.
In 1890, Charles Knox developed the world's first pre-granulated gelatin which dissolved faster in water and was easy to measure with measuring cups. Francis Woodwod purchased the Jell-O name and business for $450.00. In 2001, Utah made Jell-O® the official state snack food and the Mormon Corridor region in Utah has been nicknamed the “Jell-O Belt". Today many individuals use the brand name Jell-O® to refer to gelatin, although there are several other popular brands of flavored gelatin mixes. What’s Cooking in America website lists these interesting JELL-O Trivia facts.
- In the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz, the horse that changed colors was actually six (6) horses sponged down with Jell-O®.
- In the early 1900s, the company decided to offer Ellis Island immigrants a bowl of Jell-O® as "Welcome to America" gift!
- During an air show at the Woodward Airport in Oklahoma, one of the contests involved having the pilot land his plane, run up to a table and eat a bowl of Jell-O®, and then run back to the plane and take off.
- In 1993, technicians at St. Jerome Hospital in Batavia, New York, tested a bowl of lime Jell-O® with an EEG machine and confirm and confirmed the earlier testing by Dr. Adrian Upton that a bowl of wiggly Jell-O has brain waves identical to those of adult men and women.
- The first four Jell-O® flavors were orange, lemon, strawberry, and grass. Obviously through the years grass as a flavoring has disappeared from the American palate.
- Jell-O® is a brand recognized by 99% of Americans and used regularly in 72% of homes.
- Gelatin is used by synchronized swimmers to hold their hair in place during their routines as it will not dissolve in the cold water of the pool. It is frequently referred to as "knoxing” - a reference to Knox brand gelatin.
Gelatin lends itself to many uses, from the colorful and popular deserts, salads and cold entrees, to candies such as marshmallows and pharmaceutical use. Check out the use of gelatin in the recipes in Flavorful Fortified Food – Recipes to Enrich Life.