Agar Jello, featuring Hibiscus
* EDIT August 9: To correct typo in the jellos — the agar powder for the “Hibiscus Jello” is 1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp;the “Chia Jello” is 1/4 tsp agar only. If you copied the recipe with the incorrect 1/2 tsp please correct it accordingly. Apologies!
I actually had to re-do and experiment to get this jello recipe ready for posting here. Reasons I rarely post recipes that I make is because, one, I never write them down; two, I don’t use exact measurements, preferring to know what I want and just work it on the fly/as I go; and three — this is most important — I usually use at least one ingredient that I *know* 99.9999% of people do not have in their kitchens and won’t find in stores. One would have to online order…too fussy. No one’s gonna make it.
Oh, and, reasons why I don’t post what *I* actually eat is because I actually very rarely “make” a meal for myself; I eat very, very simply. And, well, I’ve just got “weird” taste preferences compared to others! or so it seems :?
So, anyway, my hibiscus jello wouldn’t be “easy” because of the reasons stated, and so why post it? I wrote a new version below making it as easy and as accessible as possible for the majority without compromising texture — but the flavor is all on you!
A little bit of info first…
One issue with agar jello is that it results in a rubbery/hard jel. It’s actually more favorable for an aspic. On the other hand, if using too little it will just be runny.
Some fruits, like citrus, are said to inhibit the jelling ability, resulting in inconsistent finished products.
One solution is to add a bit of starch.
This works quite well, and if you have no issue with it then use 1/2 Tablespoon to 2 Cups of mixture.
You will need to cook the cornstarch first (or microwave it. Best way is to combine the starch with a Tablespoon cold mixture then, after cooking the agar, whisk in the cornstarch mixture, and microwave for @ 30 seconds on high, or, for about a minute stove top to dissolve and clear.
Another issue is that some fruits — citrus, pineapple, etc. — will hinder the jelling. So, again the starch will help with this.
I don’t use starches, so I have found that using the inhibiting feature of citrus actually helps balance out the rubbery texture of agar to create a better, softer jello. Still, this agar-only is not “perfect,” jello consistency; however if you are opposed to starch or gums, then you may like this or experiment yourself further. Vinegars, by the way, destroy the jelling.
Homemade agar jellos will also weep. Commercial veg jellos don’t because they use multiple stabilizers.
Xanthan and guar are readily available, and can be bought it stores nowadays, so that’s what I used here. These help smooth it out just enough to get rid of the rubbery without turning it to a mealy or viscous texture. They also help absorption and inhibit the weeping somewhat.
I think, after making this, you will then see if you want to add a touch more of this-or-that, to your taste, if you need it.
Ultimately, if you like the taste, but not the texture, just blend it up, pour into molds or ice-cube trays, stick a stick or toothpick in ‘em and you’ll have fantastic popsicles! The agar helps soften the texture of sorbets and frozen desserts, so they aren’t so hard-frozen, and they drip less. Win-win! :D
Hibiscus Jello: Makes @ 1 1/4 C
3/4 C Hibiscus Infusion, (make it as strong as you want the finished product to taste -for example, when I used a tea blend, I used 3 tea bags in 8-oz water)
1/4-1/2 C Sweetener (see below)
1 tsp lime juice (or lemon) or to taste, optional
1/4 tsp +1/8 tsp agar Powder
1/4 C hibiscus Infusion (see below)
Pinch (1/16 tsp) Guar Gum (see below)
Fresh fruit chunks, optional
Prepare your fruit and place in molds, if using. Set aside.
Combine 3/4 C Hibiscus Infusion with sweetener to taste, and lime juice, if using. Set aside.
Combine in a 2 C pyrex or other deep microwavable vessel* (or cook stove top) the remaining 1/4-Cup Hibiscus infusion, agar, and guar gum and whisk together well.
In microwave, boil mixture for 1 full minute – see important note below.
Remove the the agar mixture, from heat/oven and, while whisking, add the reserved sweetened hibiscus infusion. (Don’t add the agar to the hibiscus; add the hibiscus to the agar). Whisk thoroughly.
Pour immediately into molds, over dish of fruit,etc., and refrigerate till cold. Agar will set at room temperature within minutes; however it’sbest set for at least an hour for flavors to meld and refrigerated for best texture.
You can add fresh fruit pieces by placing them into the molds and pour the mixture over them.
Sweetener: You can use up to 1/2 C sweetener — frozen fruit juice concentrate, or powdered or granulated. (Though about 1/3 C is about sweet enough; add to taste). If using a granulated sweetener such as sugar or erythritol, you should make sure it is completely dissolved in your infusion before adding it to the agar. (Heat up the infusion or a part of it to dissolve it, if needed or sweeten it when you first make it).
You can use all or almost all fresh fruit juice if you use the concentrated form of hibiscus (as I describe in the recipes below), just make sure you have a total of 1 C liquid mixture as per the recipe. You may add a bit more sweetening from there if it needs it. Basically, to your taste. I also want to impress that your choice of sweetener is important. Having tried several, it makes a big difference in flavor.
Hibiscus Infusion: This is simply the hibiscus flavor and concentration you want. If using a pre-made blend such as the Celestial Seasonings “Zinger,” I’ll use 3 bags per cup. That’s my preference; you may like a 2-bag steep. Again, taste is up to you!
“Pinch”: This direction can be annoying because there is actually a pinch measuring spoon! What I have found — even though, have you noticed how a brand of measuring spoons can differ in volume from another?!! Drives me crazy. A “pinch” depends on the author — it could mean a finger pinch — and, whose fingers do they mean??!! — or just a couple shakes, or any other dash, sprinkle, or spoon!
Anyway, what I have found is that generally, a measured “pinch” is @ 1/16 teaspoon. So, if you don’t have a “pinch” spoon, just using half your 1/8 teaspoon should be fine.
It may sound fussy, but with gums it’s important not to use too much or too little. Too much is really awful…Sorry!
* You need a 2-Cup Pyrex cup because it is deep enough with a small enough diameter bottom to cook the mixture over a minute without having it boil over and all over your microwave and not evaporate at the same time. A too-large bottomed bowl or 4-C pyrex cup is too big and yourmixture will evaporate.
If you don’t have one, use a similar deep cup or bowl and perhaps test it with some water first to see if it boils over so you don’t waste your agar.
Note: *IMPORTANT* The agar mixture needs to full-boil for 1 minute minimum. So, you need to watch your microwave to start the countdown once it boils. So, for example, if mine begins boiling at about 30 seconds, I need to make sure it goes at least an additional 1 minute from there.
A little longer is okay, just don’t let it full-boil for more than 1:15 or so (your mixture will evaporate!)
Ultimately, the flavor is entirely up to you. I find I like strong flavors in general, and hibiscus is no exception. I like to be able to taste the hibiscus so I make it strong, and don’t want the sweetener to mask it.
The addition of your favorite fresh fruit is great here.
Fun with your jello!
Using molds is a fun way to make these even more visually exciting.
These are my old round cutters I used to use for baking
You can use your holiday or other cookie cutters and molds too. Here are my old — and I mean old – aspic cutters!
You can see how well-worn they are. I used to use these to make little pasta shapes for soups, and vegan gummis; lots of decorations, etc.
They are deep, which is nice because you can choose how thick you want your items to be. Not expensive at all, by the way. I believe I got mine and Sur La Table or perhaps some other cook’s shop.
These are really great in fruit salads! Just mix some in with a medley of fruit. Or freeze some and plop them into drinks!
Hibiscus Chia Jello:
3/4 C Hibiscus Infusion
1/2 C Fruit Juice Concentrate (see about sweeteners above), or to taste
2 tsp Chia seeds
1 tsp lime or lemon juice, optional
1/4 tsp agar powder
1/4 C Hibiscus Infusion
Combine 3/4 Hibiscus Infusion, Sweetener, chia seeds, lime juice, if using. Set aside.
Combine in a 2 C pyrex or other deep microwavable vessel* (or cook stove top) the remaining 1/4 C Hibiscus infusion + agar and whisk together well.
In microwave, boil mixture for 1 full minute — see important note “Below” above :)
Remove the the agar mixture, from heat/oven and, while whisking, add the reserved sweetened hibiscus-chia infusion. (Don’t add the agar to the hibiscus; add the hibiscus to the agar). Whisk thoroughly.
Pour immediately into molds, over dish of fruit,etc., and refrigerate till cold.
Agar will set at room temperature within minutes; however it’s best set for at least an hour for flavors to meld and refrigerated for best texture.
You can add fresh fruit pieces by placing them into the molds and pour the mixture over them.
A Couple Fruit Popsicles
Hibiscus pineapple Popsicles
Pineapple is awesome with hibiscus. Try mango too!
8 ounces or 1 heaping Cup of chopped pineapple
3/4 C coconut water, (or water, tea, or juice*)
+ Hibiscus infusion/concentrate,** to taste
1 C total of a strong Hibiscus infusion
2 TB lime juice
Sweetener to taste, optional/if needed*
Chunks of fruit or berries, optional, added after blending, or place in molds and pour the blended mixture over them. Freeze.
Prepare your fruit if using; place in molds. Set aside.
Blend first 4 ingredients in a blender till smooth. (You can strain the blended mixture, if you wish.) Adjust sweetening, if needed.
(You can remove foam, if desired I find it yummy and, oddly, creamy and delicious)
Pour into molds, over the chunks of fruit, if using, and freeze.
You can add chunks of any fresh fruit. Mango is great in these. Fresh fruit is a Mexican tradition, and really makes these wonderful.
*You can use fresh juice or frozen juice concentrates to your taste for sweetening (white grape is good); 100 percent fruit juice is best
If you use canned pineapple, you can use the juice for the water (just be aware it may take over the hibiscus flavor). Maybe you like a bottled tea, etc.; use that if you like.
I find the faux sweeteners “iffy” and can add odd or “off” flavoring; fruit juice, for my taste, is best. You choose your favorite.
To make a smoother texture that hinders dripping, breaking, and an icy texture, you may use about 1/2 tsp agar powder (cooked first, per jello instructions for a minute) Flore de Jamaica
You can make this as a sorbet as well; you can use agar or not.
Flore de Jamaica
You make your concentrate however you like. I like to make a very strong infusion so that I can easily incorporate it into any dish. I like mine 2:1 at least. I freeze it in ice cube trays and have it available at any time!
You can also make a concentrate from your favorite tea, such as the TAZO brand or the Celestial Seasoning blend. You can also make/use your own creation to taste.
For the popsicles, you want to end up with about 2 C of total blender mixture, but more or less is okay. After adding lime, additonal sweetening and your concentrate, it will vary. Taste it and it should be good. The 2 Cups is just an amount to work around. Then it’s extended further and you get more pops when you add fresh fruit!
My Basic Hibiscus Concentrate – 2:1
I use whole flowers that I get from Mountain Rose Herbs
1 full Cup of whole Hibiscus flowers
2 or 2 1/2, 8-ounce Cups boiling water (16 or 20 ounces total) (I sometimes like to use cinnamon sticks simmered in water and use that)
Steep at least a few hours till cool, for best extraction, or overnight is best. It can be used sooner, though, if needed.
Squeeze out all the liquid you can.
Also, don’t throw out those flowers! They contain a lot more essence! Re-steep for a less concentrated form or tea. They are also edible.
Makes @ 1 to 1 1/4 C concentrate
Tip: You can also steep hibiscus with cold water, either make sun tea, or leave it to steep room temp. It can also be steeped in the refrigerator.
Strawberry Flower Popsicles
1 C (8-oz.)hibiscus infusion, sweetened** to taste (make to taste – double strength at least)
1/2 lb. (8 ounces) fresh strawberries, hulled, (ripe and good or get frozen!)
1-2 TB lemon or lime juice (or to taste, I like 2)
Optionals: Fresh fruit pieces (not for blending) fresh Mangos are great here; zests; spices; herbs; flavorings;etc.. Ginger is really yummy. I like a pinch of cayenne! Tastes like — remember “hot tamales”? :D
Prepare your fresh fruit, if using. Place in bottom of molds. Set aside.
Blend. Pour into molds. Freeze.
To make a smoother texture that hinders dripping, breaking, and an icy texture, you may use about 1/2 tsp agar (cooked first, per jelloinstructions for a minute)
You can make this as a sorbet as well; you can use agar or not.
** This is about 3/4C of your “tea” + the sweetener you choose. Make your hibiscus strong so you can taste it. fresh fruit juice to sweeten will be a very light sweetening; if you use a sweetener without bulk, such as stevia, a fruit juice to make up the volume is a good choice. For frozen concentrates, you would use it as for sugar; white grape is best, if you want the hibiscus to come through; otherwise, you can flavor it as you like with a tropical fruit juice blend, for example. Concentrates can be used in recipes that call for it, 1:1, as you would a liquid sweetener, such as simple syrup, maple syrup, honey, or agave nectar, as well as dry sugar.
Be careful with the fake sugars for some reason, they can taste really awful in a frozen dessert. To me, fruit juice concentrates are the best for sweetening popsicles. But whatever floats your boat! Just make it good; make it to YOUR taste. The sweetener makes a difference in the *flavor* of final product.
pour into a flat pan or plate (I used a pie plate)
Freeze a a couple hours, or till half-frozen, and scrape with a fork
Repeat this a couple times, then add to a processor and consume as is, or
pour into a container with a secure lid, place back in freezer till frozen and scoop!
Basic Fruit Popsicle
When it comes down to it, just freezing some fresh fruit or juice, is all you need!
You just blend or pour into a plate and scrape it as described above, or continue on for more ideas!
Coconut water makes a great after-workout electrolyte replenesher on these hot days! You can use fresh, or store-bought (a good one will have nothing but pure coconut water)
Just pour into a flat pan/plate…
Doesn’t coconut water freeze beautifully?
you can break it up …
Then use the processor…
Or, if you don’t have a processor, scrape for a snowcone — I like using my zester to get a fine grate — or use a fork
Scoop ‘er up!
Here’s apple juice:
Or, turn them into slushies!
Or you can pour fruit juice into ice cube trays, freeze and then blend in the food processor for sorbet!
Blending whole fruit is the same:
Here is an apricot popsicle
Oh, and you can do the same fun shapes with ice cubes and fruit juices as you can with the jello! Why should they have all the fun? ;)
I like this particular ice tray mold because it look great in drinks!
Berries, fruit pieces, zests and herbs, such as mint also make for nice cubes
There’s still so much more to write about these subjects! But I think all this will give you brain freeze, just the same :D.
Enjoy, and have fun!