I loved it when my mother put fruit in the Jello® for dessert. Usually it was plain or with shredded carrots and celery. During WWII we lived in low-income housing, meals were simple and gelatin desserts fit mom’s budget. We never thought to ask if it was safe to eat or a good protein source.
We now know that gelatine is an incomplete protein and has amino acids that can be readily made by our cells as needed. It has 0 carbs, 0 fat and only 2 g protein so it really has little nutritional value. Because it is made from processed animal parts, vegans avoid gelatinous foods. As for food safety, animal processing plants are regulated and safety testing is required with documentation according to FDA reports. However, as a processed foodstuff, there is some degree of risk coming from rendering plants. So why cook with it?
Gelatin adds texture and body to food and other commercial products as well. I like the texture and use Knox® unflavored gelatine powder with juice from canned organic fruit to avoid additives, especially colored dyes. Just follow directions on the packet and eliminate added sugar.
There is a trick for adding shredded veggies or fruit. After mixing the gelatin and hot juice, watch it closely in the refrigerator. When the gelatin is just beginning to thicken, add the veggies or fruit. This will keep them from settling to the bottom.
You can also pour the mixture into a shallow pan. After hardening in the shallow pan, cut it in small cubes. Place the cubes into cocktail glasses along with whipping cream or tapioca pudding.
If you let it harden in a fancy mold, set the mold in a larger pan of warm water. When the gelatin breaks free of the mold, turn it upside down over a plate and remove the mold .
Gelatine is not the only source of thickener. Agar, derived from seaweed, is a natural thickener and more stable at room temperatures. Although it is more expensive than gelatine, agar is used by vegans to thicken soups and desserts.