Jell-O is the fun, jiggly dessert that kids and adults love. It’s great for parties, science experiments, or just as a simple snack after school. But what exactly is Jell-O? Why does it jiggle? Why is it not vegan? The answers are quite surprising!
What Makes It Jiggly?
The jiggliness of Jell-O comes from hydrolyzed or broken down collagen. Another word for hydrolyzed collagen is gelatin. You’ve probably heard the word collagen from dermatologists and skincare professionals. Collagen is a long protein responsible for bouncy, youthful skin. As you get older, your body produces less collagen, and the skin sags. Eating Jell-O is actually a great way to combat aging.
Collagen Comes From Skin
So, if gelatin is great for your skin, then where does it come from? Well, to make Jell-O, manufacturers boil animal skin and bones. Some people think that hooves are also boiled, but that’s incorrect. Hooves are made from the same protein as nails and hair, keratin, which is different from collagen and provides no jiggliness.
What Is Gelatin?
After boiling, collagen breaks down in the hot water into gelatin and when the liquid is cooled, you’re left with a jiggling mass. Food coloring and flavor are added to this liquid gelatin mix and that’s where you get all the different types of Jell-O. It’s easy to dehydrate the gelatin and turn it into a powder. To make the Jell-O, simply add hot water to the powder, let it cool and the gelatin will clump together.
Breaking Down Jell-O
Certain fruits contain an enzyme that can destroy the gelatin. These fruits include things like pineapples and kiwis. This is a cool science experiment to try at home. Add freshly cut pineapple chunks into half your Jell-O liquid and leave the other half pineapple-free. Refrigerate both bowls and in a few hours, the pineapple-free one will have gelatinized. The one with pineapple will remain a liquid.
For people who are vegan, Jell-O is a big no-no since it comes from boiling animal parts. Luckily, plants such as seaweed also produce gelatin-like secretions, agar agar, and this is used to make vegan Jell-O. You find agar agar in things like jams and panna cotta cheese to thicken the food product.