From the Ladies New Book of Cookery comes a recipe for Strawberry Isinglass Jelly, to differentiate between a calf's feet jelly and a preserve type jelly. After a recipe for how to clarify Isinglass, which is from a fish's, often a Sturgeon, swim bladder, there is a recipe for how to use it to make a jelly from strawberries. It mentions how to substitute other fruits at the end of the recipe.
I'd been looking at these, along with baked puddings and thinking about trying some of these recipes. The pushing point for this experiment was a phone call from my friend Maureen, who offered me several old jelly moulds she wanted to get rid of. I had no idea what I was getting into, but the box of lovely stoneware moulds set of a flurry of activity of researching.
This is one of the moulds and a very pretty one. It holds two cups and see the crazing on the upper top of the mould? The crazing is different on both sides, so I knew it wasn't all the way through and likely not a weak spot. However, the glaze is possibly cracked and I'm just guessing that the glaze might be lead based. So I don't mind using it once but not often, just in case. But it's awfully pretty ...
The recipe called for boiling up 3/4 pound of sugar in 1 pint of water, which makes a simple syrup. I halved the recipe, which turned out to be 1 cup of water and 6 oz or 3/4 cup of sugar. The whole recipe calls for 1 quart of strawberries. I had a bunch of cherries which needed to be used up, so I chopped them in half and poured the syrup over it. I had more than half a quart of fruit, for the half batch of jelly but the recipe mentions that other fruits used this way might need more quantity for flavour. It says to let them stand all night, so I tossed them in the fridge. I actually let it set an extra day. I didn't have the couple of tablespoons of currant juice to add, so I left it out but I did have lemon juice. The big kicker here is finding Isinglass. I know that it can sometimes be found at brewing stores, being used to clarify wine but was that the same type of preparation that would be for making a jelly? I've no idea. Anyway, I substituted gelatine, which I found out was available in the 1860's.
Gelatine comes in powder and leaves. I can only find the powder here, either in packets or bulk and it's a lot cheaper to purchase in bulk. 1 tbsn of gelatine will gel up to 2 cups of liquid, though some sources suggest limiting it to 1 3/4 cups liquid. It need to be soaked in cold water before using and then mixed with hot water to dissolve. I had 1 1/4 cups of cherry juice/simple syrup and a 2 cup mould. I soaked 1 tbsn plus 1/2 tsp gelatin in 1/4 cup of cold water. I then added 1/2 cup hot water to the gelatin mixture and mixed it really well. The soaked gelatin was thick and gloppy, so I needed a wisk to mix it well. Then I stirred in the drained cherry syrup and poured it into the mould, which I lightly oiled with sunflower oil.
After a few hours in the fridge, I ran a bit of warm water over the outside of the mould, loosened the edges with a knife and popped it upside down onto a plate. How pretty is that?
Taste-wise? Ick. It was way too sweet and not nearly fruity enough for my liking. Next time I'll use the secondary instructions which say to just toss some sugar over the fruit and a bit of water, let it sit and drain it. It also says any juice can be used this way, which would be even easier and probably more tasty as well. I've got to get some white plates for stuff like this. It would look so much prettier on plain white.
Recipe as written in the book - Water, 1 pint; sugar, three-fourths of a pound: 15 minutes (boiled together). Strawberries, 1 quart; isinglass, 2 ounces and a half, water, 1 pint; juice, 1 larger or 2 small lemons.
It also calls for egg white, but nowhere in the directions can I see where it is called for and this part of the recipe doesn't mention the currant juice that the instructions call for either.
I used 1 cup water, 3/4 cup sugar (boiled for 15 minutes). Cherries, 3 cups, gelatin 1 tbsn plus 1/2 tsp, 3/4 cup water, divided, juice of one lemon.
Easy to do, pretty to look at and well worth other experiments.