Jello occupies a special place in the world of quick and easy desserts. Many of us have fond childhood memories of it and the fun of molding it never gets old. You can serve it in individual dishes, cut it in squares or with cookie cutters, or use any shape mold you can find. While the commercial variety contains artificial flavors and colors that would be best avoided, making a gelatin-based dessert from scratch is almost as simple as preparing one from a box. Using fresh fruit juice and adjusting the sweetener to your own taste produces a beautiful and delicious dessert that’s a great choice for families who are trying to reduce the amount of sugar and artificial ingredients they eat. And you can get creative too! Try different juices, add fresh fruit pieces, and of course have fun with shapes. Here’s how I make homemade fruit juice jellies…

 

Start with 2 cups of fruit juice. You can use bottled juice or extract your own. Today, I’m using fresh oranges, Stayman apples, and a frozen strawberry/raspberry/blueberry mix. You can puree the fruit and strain it to collect the juice, use an electric juicer, or, for the apples, cook them with a little water for 10-15 minutes before pureeing and straining. I often use the berry puree rather than just the juice. The berries cost more and it seems like a waste to not use all of them, so I strain the puree to remove the seeds but keep most of the pulp.

 

Once you have two cups of juice, put 1 ½ cups of it in a small pot and bring it to a boil on the stove. Set aside the remaining ½ cup to soften the gelatin. When the juice starts to steam, sprinkle 2 packages (or 2 tablespoons) of unflavored gelatin over the reserved juice and let it sit for 1 minute as the rest of the juice comes to a boil. When the juice on the stove has started to boil, turn off the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1-2 tablespoons of whatever sweetener you like, to taste. Combine the hot juice with the softened gelatin and whisk until smooth. Taste it and add more sweetener or lemon juice if you want to. Then pour the mixture into an 8” x 8” pan, individual dishes, or molds and refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving. To help remove the gelatin from the mold or pan, place it in a shallow dish of warm water for a few seconds to loosen it, then turn it out.

 

Experimenting with flavor combinations is a lot of fun. Keep in mind that there are a few fruits that will prevent the gelatin from setting unless they are cooked first. These include pineapple, kiwi, mango, papaya, and ginger root. If the fruit is canned, you shouldn’t have a problem. If you’ve never made homemade jello, I hope you give it a try. Send us a picture of your results!