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As I've mentioned in another question, I'm attempting to make a large block of gelatin. Unfortunately, my first few attempts come out a bit amber in hue, using just water, sugar, gelatin and clear flavoring.

After some research, I found a video on making clear gelatin in which they:

  1. used a different brand of gelatin
  2. bloomed the gelatin in less liquid than I had
  3. added citric acid
  4. heated it for quite some time

I suspect that they also used a lower gelatin to water ratio. (I need this quite stiff, as it'll be an unsupported cube about 10 inches (25cm) on each side.)

In looking at their images, I think that there's still a little hue to their solution, but I'm not sure which of the differences are most significant to the process. Does anyone know?

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I should also add -- after watching the video and reading some other articles, I heated back up my gelatin and held it at 180°F for about 30 min ... I think it cleared up some, but it's still darker than I'd like ... also, I'm using about 2TB of Knox gelatin per cup of water. I also have a canister of Great Lakes kosher gelatin if that would make a difference. – Joe Jan 22 '14 at 17:31
Is this something that absolutely has to be gelatin? In my experience gelatin is usually a bit yellowish without adding any coloring. If you can get away with using agar-agar though, it's much more clear (and can be made very stiff). – SourDoh Jan 22 '14 at 17:31
@sourd'oh : I wish I had known that before I started ... I'm trying to get this done for a contest on Friday, so I'd have today and tomorrow to try to source alternatives (which might be problematic for more rare items) – Joe Jan 22 '14 at 17:36
Agar is pretty easy to find at health food stores, if that helps. It's really easy to use and is much more stable than gelatin once it sets (and I think the flavor is also a lot more neutral). If you can't find it, I think the kosher gelatin might be your best bet, as it's usually made from fish (if I'm not mistaken). – SourDoh Jan 22 '14 at 17:42
@sourd'oh : blah ... all of the agar that Amazon has listed as 'prime elligible' that they claim will ship to me by Thursday if I order within (x) hours, when you go to the individual item pages they say it'll get to me by Friday. I might have to dig out the driveway to get to a health food store. – Joe Jan 22 '14 at 18:07

I've used konnyaku it's a japanese gel-type dessert you make from powder. it's crystal clear. it looks like solid water. it's rubbery as directed, but you might use more water or less powder to get the texture you want. here's a photo of what it looks like, but they've got fruit (?) in the gel that makes it look colors.

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After many, many tests, I have discovered a few things:

  1. Heating the gelatin for a long time is very necessary. I found 180°F (82°C) for 30 min would make sure that the gelatin was properly disolved, so that it would minimize the murkiness. (30 min was my minumum test, it might've been possible with less time)

  2. You need to pour the gelatin while it's quite hot. 170°F (77°C) was fine, but even taking it down to 160°F (71°C) resulted in a good bit of murkiness (likely introduced by small air bubbles when pouring; I might have had better luck with more careful pours, or using alternate means to move the liquid (eg, syringe)).

  3. You need to minimize any air bubbles. If you pour it in layers, slowly move a fork through the top to pop and bubbles. If you still have a few remaining after it's set, you can pour the hot liquid on the bubbles to remove them from that layer. (I used a spoon to deflect the pour to right near the wall of the container).

  4. Avoid flavorings. Alcohol-based extracts will make it more murky. (it clears up some after heating; it's absolutely horrible if you try mixing it in at the end) Oil based flavorings had no emulsifier, and would just separate out. (the best flavoring I could find was 'white cranberry' beverage (10% juice), but noticed there seemed to be variance over time in the color. (a bottle that I had in storage for a year was considerably more apple-juice like in color than a more recent purchase).

  5. Gelatin has better visibilty than Agar-Agar. Although Gelatin has a tint, the Agar isn't fully transparent when it sets, even after holding it for hours at temperatures just off the boil. (I was using an immersion circulator for heating, so I never took it to a full boil. Held it at 95°C (203°F) overnight, then tried a couple of hours at 99°C (210°F).

  6. You can't get clear, unmoldable jello in the scale that I was dealing with. You need to cut back the gelatin to about 1TB gelatin per 2c. of liquid for visibilty (albiet poor visibility). It's possible that it might set up sufficiently if given a week in the fridge, but you really need at least twice that to get it to firm up sufficiently at larger sizes. (note that it's fine for smaller items ... I used shot glasses for my tests, so thought I was going to be okay)

  7. no matter what you do, you can't set licorice laces in arches in jello. The heat needed from the pour causes them to collapse, even if you freeze them first, or set them in a layer of jello. (tried Agar too, but I had to mix it fairly week to keep it from being too opaque and it didn't set up enough to hold vertical; this might be related to my holding it at high temps for too long, though).

I never tested if citric acid had an affect, but I just don't think that I can pull off what I'm looking for in this scale. After 3 more catastrophic failures this year (on top of the 2 last year), I think I'm giving up on this project.

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