Trail friendly – sets up with no refrigeration – artificial dye and color free, vegan/vegetarian/kosher and it actually tastes good? The potential for backcountry ‘adult’ gel shots? Why yes! It can do all of this…..
So what is this product I am writing about? Well, it would be agar agar.
“Also known by its Japanese name Kanten, Agar or Agar Agar is derived from Gracilaria (Gelidium species) a bright red sea vegetable with the botanical name of Gleidium purpurascens. Agar due to its high gelling properties is considered the queen of gelling agents.”
Easy to use – 2 tsp of powdered or 2 Tbsp of flakes will gel 2 cups of liquid. Incredibly easy to make, all it requires is the boiling of your liquid and adding it to the agar agar, stirring well, then letting it sit till cool. It jells at 88*, most impressive.
You can get commercial versions, such as Natural Desserts (reviewed on this blog) that is quite tasty in Strawberry, Orange and Raspberry or you can make your own using the agar agar and fruit juice to sweeten/flavor. Online you can find it in bulk at Bulkfoods above or Eden Organics sells flakes, on Amazon one can find bags of the powder as well: Agar Agar Powder, 4 oz.
As to ‘adult’ backcountry jel shots? Figure out how much alcohol you want to add, subtract that from the liquid needed. After you add the hot liquid and have stirred it well, pour in the alcohol quickly and stir. For best results stash your liquor in a cold creek beforehand – the cold liquor will set the jel faster. It works well in a wide camp mug or bowl – the jel dessert doesn’t stick once set and slides right out.
One thing though to remember – if you use plain agar agar you will need to sweeten it. In most cases fruit juice will work great. Unlike traditional gelatin (Jello©, Knox©) it will set with fruit like pineapple and kiwi leaving it wide open to what you can use. In the commercial versions such as Natural Desserts they use natural food dyes, such as beet powder to get the color. Packit Gourmet carries beet powder for red, as well as burgundy wine powder – which is a very pretty pink color. Add in some freeze dried fruit (or fresh) and yum!