Agar Agar (Kanten) jelly with fruit
On a recent trip to the Japanese store, I came across a package of agar agar powder (“kanten”) and remembered my mom making jelly desserts with it, often with fruit and sometimes with milk. Unlike other gelatin products, agar agar is derived from a sea vegetable, so it is all natural, vegan and nutritious. It has very high gelling power and when dissolved in liquid, will set in 15 minutes at room temperature. Agar agar can be found at Japanese grocery stores, but I believe you can find it at health food stores. I’ll let you know for sure.
I did not know this, but there are people devoted to kanten. The Internet has several good resources; one that has a lot of information about the history of kanten, its health benefits, and other recipes is Kanten (agar agar) World.
Agar Agar jelly with fruit
1 ½ teaspoons (4 grams) agar agar powder (available from health food shops or Japanese stores)
2 cups water
5 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
½ cup fruit (whole blueberries, chopped strawberries, peaches, pears)*avoid highly acidic fruit
1. Add the agar agar powder to the water and let it sit for 1 minute. Heat the mixture on the stove until it reaches a gentle boil, about 1 minute; turn down the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves. Turn off the heat and add the vanilla extract, if desired. Cool the mixture for 5 minutes.
2. Divide the fruit and put it in individual molds or in one mold, and gently pour the liquid over it. You can use silicone ice cube trays, wine glasses, or anything that will make the jelly look attractive. The liquid will gel at room temperature quickly, as soon as it begins to cool, about 15 minutes. Try not to disturb the gel during this time, or air bubbles will get trapped and the mold will be damaged. After it has set, use your fingers to gently push on one side of the jelly; it should release from the mold easily. Do not use a fork or knife to wedge the gel out or you may damage the mold.