March 14th, 2010

How To Use Gelatine

Following a conversation with Trish, a regular reader and user of the British Larder, about my usage of gelatine, I was prompted to write a page on the origins and usages of gelatine in the UK.

The sheet size of  UK leaf gelatine changed to half size a few years ago but it still causes confusion especially as the catering industry use another size of gelatine which comes with different grades and strengths. In the UK you can buy a variety of branded gelatine leaves, the two that I’m most familiar with are G.Costa and Super Cook Select Platinum Grade. My understanding is that though the dimensions changed, the strength remained the same, so in short it is exactly the same thing just a different size.

This page should give you enough information to feel confident to use gelatine either at home or commercially.

Please note that the sizes and formats described apply to the UK only and may vary in other countries.

What is Gelatine?

Gelatine is an odourless, colourless and tasteless solid substance made from protein derived from beef and veal bones, tendons and other tissue,whereas much of the commercial gelatine is a by-product of pig skin. It’s commonly used as a gelling or setting agent in cookery, both savoury and sweet. Gelatine is an irreversible hydrolyzed form of collagen and is classified as a foodstuff with an E-number E441. Gelatine is found in lots of every day foods such as marshmallows, jellies and some low-fat yogurts and set desserts. Some dietary or religious customs forbid the use of gelatine from certain animal sources, and medical issues may limit or prevent its consumption by certain people.

Gelatine sets firm when cold and melts completely at 35°C.

The effect of commonly used ingredients on the setting point of gelatine

There are a few everyday  ingredients that can influence the setting point of gelatine.

  • Milk and dairy products strengthen the gelling process and support the structure of gelatine,
  • Salt lowers the strength and can cause the collapse of the structure or in some cases prevent the setting of the gelatine, all, this could be counteracted by increasing the amount of gelatine used.
  • Sugars increase the strength of gelatine with the exception of fructose found in fruits
  • Acids such as vinegar, fruit juice and wine with a pH below 4 produces a weaker jelly and requires the amount of gelatine used to be increased by upto 1/3 of the original amount.
  • Strong acids and tannins in red wine and tea can make a jelly, set with gelatine, go cloudy. Cloudiness can be prevented by cooking the tannin rich ingredient and gelatine solution together briefly, about a minute or two. The jellies can also benefit from being passed through a muslin cloth or in some cases even being clarified.
  • Pineapple, papaya, melon and kiwi fruit all contain protein digesting enzymes that break gelatine down and prevent it from setting. You can deactivate these destructive enzymes by cooking the fruits and turning the fruit into a puree or cook the extracted juices to create a clear jelly.

How To Use Leaf Gelatine

  • All leaf gelatines must be soaked properly before using, regardless of the brand, strength  or size.
  • You must always soak leaf gelatine in cold water, as anything less than cold may interfere with the blooming stage.
  • Place the leaf or leaves in a suitably sized flat container, if you soak more than one sheet make sure you separate them by wiggling them about in the water, if they stick together they will not soak properly and their use will be diminished.
  • Pour enough cold water over the gelatine to ensure it’s completely covered.
  • Leave to soak until the gelatine blooms(expands) and goes wrinkly, this takes normally about 5 – 6 minutes depending on the quantity. If you soak numerous sheets this will take longer.
  • Do not leave the gelatine in the water  too long, it will start to break down and you will not be able to use it in the correct amounts if it starts to disintegrate.
  • Once bloomed the gelatine is ready to be used, remove the gelatine from the water, squeeze it between your fingers to remove any excess water.
  • Melt the gelatin by adding it to the warm liquid that it is to be added to, the liquid temperature must be over 35°C.
  • Once the liquid is cooled below 4°C the gelatine will set and become firm. You can melt the gelatine and re-set it for the second and third time by bringing the liquid back to over 35°C and then set it again at below 4°C

How To Use Bronze Commercial Gelatine

For commercial use I recommend and only use bronze leaf gelatine.

I have devised a simple formula to give you an indication of how much to use. Please remember these are only guide lines and always test small amounts by chilling 100ml of your mixture to check how firm it sets. I normally pop a small about in a flat small bowl and chill it quickly in the freezer, this way I can add a bit more gelatine or let it down if it does not set to my liking.

The formula for Bronze Gelatine Sheets

  • 1 sheet of bronze gelatine for 100ml liquid = soft set (easy to turn out)
  • 1 sheet of bronze gelatine for 125ml liquid = wobbly soft set (served in a glass)

How To Use Domestic Small Gelatine Leaves – Platinum Grade

The small sheets that you buy from most supermarkets and delis in the UK are made by G.Costa or Super Cook Select Platinum Grade and the strength differs slightly to the bronze commercial larger sheets.

  • 1 small platinum sheet for 100ml liquid = soft set (easy to turn out)
  • 1 small platinum sheet for 125ml liquid = wobbly set (serve in a glass)

Conversions for powder gelatine to leaves

  • 1 level teaspoon of gelatin powder = 1½ small leaves
  • 3 level teaspoons of gelatin powder = 3 small leaves
  • 6 level teaspoons of gelatin powder = 6 small leaves

Conclusion

I conclude  that there is no difference between commercial bronze and domestic platinum gelatine. I found from  my test  that the bronze product has a “bronze/ yellow” colour where as the platinum was bright and almost colourless. My personal preference is to use leaf gelatine rather than the powdered version. Remember that gelatine is not suitable for vegetarians nor certain religious diets, I recommend using veggie gel or agar agar which are both suitable for vegetarians and vegans.  I will write another separate page covering agar agar as there are some important rules to follow for it’s successful use.

If you would like me to write about any other specialist ingredients please let me know and I will investigate and share my findings.

Myths About Geltine

My mother used to give me gelatine supplements, she believed it would strengthen my hair and nails. Well the truth is that there is no medical or scientific evidence to confirm that gelatine supplements have a direct link to the strengthening of hair and nails. In other words it’s a myth.

What we do know is that nails and hair are made of a protein called keratin and gelatine is not a building block for keratin proteins.

British Larder Recipes Using Gelatine

17 Comments to “How To Use Gelatine”

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  1. Kate says:

    Hello. I hope that you can help me. My very old aunt read me a recipe for aspic this morning that calls for “1 package Nelson’s gelatine.” I wonder if you have any guess as to how much that might have been or? I have no idea how much to use!

    Thanks for your help.

    Kate

  2. joan says:

    My recipes uses 1x 11g sachet gelatine. How many fine gelatine leave would I use instead.

    Thanks

  3. Madalene says:

    Hi Joan,

    Two gelatine leaves should be sufficient.

    Happy Cooking
    Madalene

  4. Claire says:

    Thanks for this guide – an amazingly helpful explanation of how to use and convert gelatine in all its forms. Thanks for taking the time to put this together for us all!

  5. Madalene says:

    Dear Ginger,

    The answer is yes, gelatine has a shelf life and I would not recommended using gelatine or any ingredients past the manufacturers sell by date. If in doubt about the date then simply bin it and buy fresh gelatine. My recommendations is based on the grounds of health and safety reasons.

    You can weigh gelatine if you have scales that goes that low, one sheet of gelatine weighs 1.66g.

    Happy cooking.

    Kind Regards
    Madalene

  6. ginger says:

    Does old gelatine powder have a shelf life?

    Can one weigh leaf gelatine? I have broken pieces.

  7. Madalene says:

    Dear Rosie,

    Thank you for your question on how to use gelatine. It is very important that you do the following:
    # Melt the gelatine by adding it to the warm liquid that it is to be added to, the liquid temperature must be over 35°C.
    # Once the liquid is cooled below 4°C the gelatine will set and become firm. You can melt the gelatine and re-set it for the second and third time by bringing the liquid back to over 35°C and then set it again at below 4°C

    Happy Cooking
    Madalene

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