I am sure anyone that knows me, knows that my mother was born in Ireland and moved to the States when she and my father were about to be married. When I think about it now, it was quite the intrepid adventure she set out on. At the time, 1965 she was very young in only 19, and people didn’t travel back and forth overseas as easily as we do these days, it was prohibitively expensive, not to mention the cost of overseas phone calls! So this very young woman moved to America, married my Dad and started a family! No family around to watch the baby, and a husband who worked all day. It was a different time all together! My Mom did instill a very strong sense of our Irish heritage in us kids, and we are all still very close to our Irish family. And so, St. Patrick’s day is a big deal for us, and not in the drink green beer until you can’t possibly drink any more sense. For our family it’s a day that we really are proud to be Irish! This year, one of my nieces is even doing her first public Irish dancing recital… big news in the Hennessey family!!
In creating my own little family in Detroit, I do try really hard to honor both of our heritages. As I have mentioned here before, Tim is half Hungarian, so all the food I can possibly make from there, I do. And my paternal grandmother’s Belgian roots are honored all the time! And on St. Patrick’s Day, I go all out… even thought Tim won’t eat the corned beef, I cook it for me, and some years, for friends and family here. This year, one of my cousins posted a photo on her Facebook page of the “green and gold jellies” that they were having for dessert today (lime and orange “jello” with lots of cream to go over) and I thought, jeez, I should make that for us too! Alas, Jello, and gelatin products are decidedly NOT vegetarian. I have experimented a few times with making vegan versions of things like marshmallow, and the pudding I have posted here. I have had success with all of them, except the marshmallows, and I was dying to figure out what was wrong. And then, low and behold, I read many, many recipes with something called agar agar, also called agar flakes, or powder. But, agar is a fickle mistress… and so the great vegetarian dessert caper of St. Patrick’s 2012 was afoot!
I got two pots out and used 2 cups of liquid, in this case, orange juice and limeade, with some white wine thrown in for the grown up in me. I didn’t add any sugar, but I did add a drop of green food coloring to the lime version, to up the color. The recipe I found online called for one teaspoon of agar and very little cooking time. From experience I know now, that it usually takes double that amount to really work, so I used 2 teaspoons in each pot. I brought them both to the boil, took them off the heat, added in the agar, stirred well, then put them back on the heat and let them simmer for a good 30 min, stirring occasionally. Then, everything was allowed to cool and the mixture was poured into a lightly greased aluminum loaf pan. It looked promising when I started:
I put both pans carefully into a Ziplock bag when they were completely cool and set them in the middle shelf of the fridge. I was told it could take up to 4 hours, so I just walked away and made the soda bread, put the corned beef on to boil and forgot about them. About 3 hours in, I checked them… I couldn’t resist. The orange one was completely jelled and looked pretty good. The lime one on the other hand, seemed fine until I wobbled the pan a bit, and it exploded into a liquid, although slightly thickened, mess. Uh oh! I uncovered both and put them back into a cooler part of the fridge and vowed to just leave them!
About 3 hours later, the orange was still gorgeous, the lime still a bit too liquid for me, so I popped it in the freezer, and served dinner. When we were able to think about dessert, I grabbed both pans and whipped the cream and this is what we had!
The orange, although jell like, was a soft jell, so I am adjusting the agar amounts to account for that. Here’s the recipe and a few more photos of the day!
1 ½ c fruit juice (apple, orange, cherry, slightly sweetened)
½ c white wine or just use fruit juice
2 ½ teaspoons agar flakes or powder
½ teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cold water
In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water and mix well until smooth and set aside. Bring the fruit juice and wine to boil in a small heavy bottomed pot. Take the pot off the heat and sprinkle the agar flakes over the hot juice and stir to combine well. Place the pot back on a low flame and simmer to allow the agar to soften and melt totally, about 15 minutes. Under no circumstances should you boil the agar, it will lose it’s effectiveness. Take the hot juice off the heat again and lightly whisk in the cornstarch and water, making sure no lumps form, and continue to stir until the mixture become clear. At this point, it should be slightly thick, not very just enough that it isn’t the same consistency as juice or water. Set the pot off the heat to cool. When it has cooled about 10 – 15 minutes, pour it into the container you will chill it in. You may want to put a very thin layer of light corn oil on the pan, so the jelly will come away from the pan when it’s done. Allow the mixture to cool completely, and then cover in plastic wrap and put in the coolest part of your refrigerator. The time to jell will vary but after 3 hours you should be able to nudge the pan and see that it is fairly solid.
When you gently press with your finger on the top of the jelly and it is firm and solid, you can either serve with a spoon, or cut into slices. I used lightly whipped cream with a spoonful of sugar, but you can serve it to taste.
And here is my soda bread, along with the flowers my mom and dad sent us. But, I can’t give you that recipe, it’s a family recipe and I would have to kill you…!!