The Essence of Nearly Anything

In Uncategorized on February 13, 2010 at 3:20 am

Gelatin filtration is a way to make sparklingly clear liquids that are intensely flavored with … well, whatever you like: meats, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads, any and all combinations of ingredients.

Strawberry consomme

A traditional consommé is made crystal clear by stirring in and then skimming off a foam of egg whites, which trap solid particles. The new technique uses gelatin instead. The process, though it takes two or three days, is simple. First you make juice or flavorful broth and strain it to remove any particles. Then you dissolve gelatin in the liquid, but only a little bit — just a fraction of what you’d use in a set gelatin dessert. (You don’t need to add gelatin to meat stocks, which already contain it.)

Then you freeze the liquid overnight, place the frozen block in a strainer over a bowl and let it thaw in the refrigerator a day or two. Liquid slowly drips into the bowl. This is the consommé.

It’s ingenious. As the jelly freezes, the water in it begins to form solid ice crystals, while the gelatin, the solid food particles, the droplets of fat and the flavors are concentrated in the remaining liquid. The long gelatin molecules bond to each other to form an invisibly fine net that traps everything else in its crevices.

The refrigerator plays a key role. It keeps the net cold enough so the gelatin doesn’t dissolve and the fat doesn’t melt. But the ice crystals do, and as they do they wash the dissolved flavors out of the net. Meanwhile the net’s crevices act like a microscopic filter, trapping particles, solid fat and other impurities. What drips out of the thawing mass is a clear, flavorful liquid.

The idea of clarifying gelatin-rich meat stocks in the cold originated with a German food technologist, Prof. Gerd Klöck of the Hochschule Bremen, who spread the word at a 2004 meeting of Inicon, a European consortium for culinary innovation.

via The Curious Cook – The Essence of Nearly Anything, Drop by Limpid Drop –

At Jean Georges on Central Park West, the executive pastry chef, Johnny Iuzzini, makes a strawberry soda as part of his strawberry dessert course. “I clarify a purée of strawberries and the water I cook them in and get a beautifully clear red liquid with a bright, fresh flavor,” he said. “I don’t have to add any sugar. I carbonate it and top it with a birch-beer foam and diced strawberries.”


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