According to What’s Cooking America, gelatin was once considered a sign of wealth, before the commercial version appeared, only members of the elite classes could afford it. It took hours to render gelatin, clarify it, and turn it into fancy aspics, molded salads, desserts. etc. The use of gelatin was a sign that the host or hostess had the means to support a kitchen staff with the skill and time to create such a dish. When gelatin became available commercially it still was a symbol of culinary sophistication.
I have fond memories of jello desserts and my mom made many jellied salads and aspics – some I liked, some I did not. As a kid, I was always fascinated with the ‘jiggly dessert’. My siblings and I would break it down by whipping it around our bowls or to see who could try to pass it between our teeth without spilling it…I know, gross, but we were kids. Fast forward to 2016, and like the kid in me, I find myself marvelling at orange jelly slices.
As I was making these, my mind drifted back to when our daughter was graduating from high school and a group of her friends had the task of making 300 jello shots! My version does not include any alcohol but if you were so inclined, you could add vodka, peach schnapps, cointreau or other flavored alcohol. Once you’ve made a batch of jelly slices, get creative and add a half layer of juice, allow to set, and top with a different flavored juice.
3 to 4 navel oranges
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Wash oranges then cut in half crosswise. Juice oranges and strain. You will need 1 3/4 cups of juice. Carefully scrape out and discard pulp from oranges to form six-half shells.
In a small saucepan combine 1/4 cup of the juice with the gelatin and set aside for 5 minutes. Heat mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally until the gelatin is clear (about 3 to 4 minutes). Whisk in remaining juice and lemon juice. Transfer juice to a measuring jug for easy pouring.
Arrange orange shells in muffin tins or ramekins (keeps shells upright) and pour mixture over evenly. Place in fridge and chill until set, about 4 hours. When set, remove from fridge and cut each half into wedges. If needed, trim away any excess orange skin before serving.
The Culinary Chase’s Note: Choose navel oranges that are small enough to fit in a juicer. The added lemon juice helps to enhance the orange flavor. Enjoy!