One of the greatest joys of my kitchen is watching my kids devour and truly enjoy real, nourishing food, especially when it’s not particularly kid-friendly in most people’s eyes.
I’m proud of them for being counter-cultural.
The second best kitchen moments in the Kitchen Stewardship household?
Successfully making fun food that looks like other kids’ food but is devoid of synthetics and evil ingredients and watching my kids enjoy that.
It’s good for them to feel normal sometimes, too.
How to Make DIY Gelatin Squares with 100% Fruit Juice
The first time I tried this technique, I thought I must have missed a step.
Not because it didn’t work, but because it was SO easy that I kind of can’t believe people pay for JELL-O in boxes.
Jello has always been one of those enigmas in the junk food world. Somehow it got a reputation for itself that it’s part of a normal meal, a side dish instead of a dessert – even though it’s ultimately jiggly sugar water with artificial flavors and colors and as close to candy as anything else,
It’s still dessert in my book – unless I make it myself.
Then it’s the best way I know of to help my kids consume, which is as close to a health supplement for joints and immunity as anything else. Homemade jello and fruit snacks are wayyyyy better than cajoling and begging, “Just drink your broth. It’s an important part of the soup!”
Perfect Supplements gelatin makes our homemade snacks not only fun but healthy – the cattle from which the gelatin and are sourced are raised on pasture, no grain finishing at all. Gelatin is a huge boost for hair, skin, nail and joint health – you won’t get that in a box of powder.
And it’s virtually odorless and tasteless, so no – your homemade gellies and gelatin squares won’t taste like beef.
Don’t bother spending your cents on boxed gelatin with sugar sugar and more sugar. You don’t need it.
The JELL-O brand sure has a heck of a marketing team though, and they have done their job of convincing American mothers that they need convenience food for decades.
Making homemade gelatin, either to eat with a spoon or to pick up with your hands, only has two ingredients and 5 steps.
Check it out:
- 3 c. 100% (grape) juice, divided
- ⅓ c. + 1 Tbs. gelatin
- Heat 2 c. juice gently in a pot until it's not boiling, just steaming a little and hot/painful to touch.
- Measure 1 c. cold juice.
- Sprinkle gelatin over the cold juice and whisk thoroughly.
- Pour the heated juice into the cold juice and whisk thoroughly.
- Pour into a glass baking dish to the desired height (8x8 works great).
- Chill at least 4 hours in the refrigerator. When firm, cut into squares with a butter knife or use cookie cutters to make shapes.
- Store in the refrigerator up to one week.
Do the same thing but with 3 cups juice heated in the pot and only 2 Tbs. gelatin.
I make it and store it right in my 4-cup glass measuring cup.
It looks like this:
My daughter helped take the pictures. She was so sweet! This is actually our “thing” to do together, ever since we made it for the first time last year. We even made the “finger jello” for her class party (and yep, kids ate them!).
Start by heating 2 cups of 100% fruit juice gently on the stove – not to a boil, but until you start to see steam and it hurts to dip your finger in. Meanwhile…
Measure a cup of cold juice – any 100% fruit juice will do. We always get the huge jugs of 100% grape juice from Costco (but you can’t use pineapple juice and the rules might be different for citrus juices).
You’ll need 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon high quality unflavored gelatin. Perfect Supplements gelatin works like a dream.
Sprinkle gelatin in slowly and whisk thoroughly. It’s a lot of gelatin, so be sure to get it mixed in until there aren’t dry spots or chunks:
It will thicken up quickly so do keep it moving!
Now go get that hot juice in the pot to make the magic happen!
Pour it into the gelled up juice and whisk well.
Once the mixture is uniform and there aren’t any gelatin chunks, pour the gelatin-juice mixture into a glass dish – and 8×8 glass baking dish will work, or an oval ceramic baker, or pictured is a Pyrex 9×11 glass dish. Really, anything goes.
Tuck in the fridge to cool for at least 4 hours…and that’s it! Cut into any shapes you like, either just squares with a butter knife, or use cookie cutters to make other shapes.
We did hearts for Valentine’s Day!
What About Fruit Snacks?
Don’t even get me started on the term “fruit snacks” when there’s not any fruit involved.
You can guess what I think about those candies being served as snacks.
These little treats are often billed on blogs as “homemade fruit snacks” or “DIY gummies,” but I think that’s misleading.
I’d rather call them “gellies” than “gummies,” because they don’t really have the same properties as a fruit snack or gummy candy, and they’re not shelf stable.
But they’re fun – and actually made of fruit!
- 1½ c. blueberries (or other fresh fruit), divided
- 2 Tbs. grassfed gelatin
- Measure 1 c. berries into a small saucepan.
- Cook over medium-low heat and stir and mash into a puree or use an immersion blender. (Alternately you could blend the berries in a blender all together and put ⅔ c. in the pot and ⅓ c. cold.)
- With the immersion blender, blend ½ c. berries in a jar or dish. (This can be tricky with such a small amount. Use the big blender if need be.)
- Sprinkle gelatin into the cold berry puree and mix.
- Once the cooked berry puree is bubbling, pour it into the cold mixture.
- Blend it all up together with the immersion blender.
- Pour into a small glass dish or casserole dish (about a cm deep or less is good for the poured mixture).
- Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
- Once gelled semi-solid, you can cut into any size cubes you like.
- Store in the refrigerator, NOT at room temp like purchased "gummy" snacks.
They last only about a week in the fridge, so don’t save them for a rainy day!
These little gellies surprised me by becoming a new finger food for our 9-month-old, who has a pretty limited diet right now simply because he hasn’t been introduced to much. They’re not exactly mess-free (<<<understatement!) so you can’t take them to church or anything, but they’re wonderful for the high chair tray – an incredible way to have fruit for the pincer grasp age that you don’t have to worry about with choking.
We made them in four different ways, and Gabe (the baby) loved them all, but my kids had stronger opinions.
- 1/2 c. heated water mixed into 1 c. cold blueberry puree with 2 Tbs. gelatin
- 1 c. heated blueberry puree mixed into 1/2 c. cold water with 2 Tbs. gelatin
- gelatin directly into hot mashed berries
- cooked berry puree mixed into cold berry puree with gelatin + the immersion blender
At first, I really wanted to have water involved because I thought I might need to dissolve the gelatin in cold water, but that really detracted from the blueberry flavor. The kids thought they were pretty boring, and they were mostly right.
For babies, those were no problem though. The heated berries are such a prettier color that it’s worth doing it that way. See them on the right of the plate here? >>
When I tried the actual recipe I had found online which instructed me to simply mix gelatin into hot mashed berries, the gelatin couldn’t dissolve and made little chunks of gel in the gummies – as I suspected. It’s terrible!
Directions on high quality gelatin always say to mix into cold liquid first – and they aren’t kidding! Anytime I try to cheat the system and mix into hot liquid, we end up with gel chunks. They’re really gross. Don’t bother.
That’s one reason I decided to mix the final recipe with the immersion blender and not just the berries. Then it poured beautifully like this:
I’m almost looking forward to packing school lunches again!
Well…almost. Summer is really nice too. I’ll make sure we have lots of variety and that kids help with the packing again this year so it’s not such a stressor or burden on the parents. This will help:
And so will The Healthy Lunch Box, packed with ALL my best lunch packing tips, strategies, recipes and routines.