Saturday, May 8, 2010

Kanten-Ease -or- Sneaky Summer Squash

Greetings, and thank you for stopping by to read another entry!

Today I want to share one of my favorite recipes with you. It is particularly great for moms who are trying to feed their kids healthful desserts, so consider this my Mother's Day gift to all of you, even if you aren't a mom!

This recipe fits the bill for so many reasons! It seems to please all children, while being healthy, so that puts it at the top of my list. Adults like it, too, and it's quick, easy, and practically fool-proof. What's not to love?

We call it jello, but macrobiotics call it kanten. Once you master this easy method, I can almost guarantee you'll be pulling this recipe out of your bag of tricks all summer long. Here's what you'll need (I'll show you exactly what I use):

Grape juice - 1 to 1.5 quarts

Canned pineapple tidbits in juice - 1 quart

Agar (half a package)

To feed a crowd, I use a 4-quart, rectangular Pyrex pan. If you want to try a smaller batch, use a 2- or 3- quart dish and half the amounts.

First, pour the quart of pineapple, juice and all, into a saucepan (here's a great opportunity to use some beautiful, vintage Corning or Pyrex). Next add about a quart and a half of grape juice. Using a whisk, gradually sprinkle in the agar, all the while gently whisking it as it dissolves into the juice mixture.

(Please ignore the fact that I need to clean my stove top.)

Continue sprinkling and whisking and heating over a low flame until the mixture almost breaks into a simmer. It will begin to look a bit cloudy at this point.

Pour the liquid into your pan and let it sit! That's it. No refrigeration. Nothing special. Just let it sit on the counter and in a couple of hours it will be set!

(Notice the steam rising as it cools!)

If you eat this within a day or so (it probably will not last that long, anyway), you don't even have to keep it in the fridge. I just set mine in the oven with a post-it that reminds everyone not to preheat the oven. This reminds me of something worthy of sharing... once last summer, entertaining a crowd, I had a big pan of kanten waiting, safe from flies, to reveal to the kids after dinner. On the spur of the moment, I decided to make a quick rhubarb crisp for the adults. I came in from the garden and preheated the oven. Ooops! The jello had all turned to liquid again! Guess what? I left it on the counter and it re-set! How's that for some magic?

Anyway, once it sets, you can slice it into cubes or squares of desired size, put it on a platter, and watch it disappear. It's a great finger food for toddlers and kids.

(Please ignore the ridiculous length of my un-groomed thumbnail.)
(Thanks for the picture, Rachel!)

There are a couple of variations I regularly use. Often I just use grape juice and agar. For potlucks, I frequently use strawberries, or mandarin orange sections and pineapple chunks, or blueberries, bananas, whatever fresh fruit I might have on hand. The difference when using fresh fruit is to prepare the juice and agar alone. Pour it into the pan and then check it every fifteen minute or so. Jiggle the pan, and stick your finger in to test the consistency. Once it is beginning to set up a bit, poke the fruit in with a chopstick. You can even make pretty designs with the fruit. Another thing you can do is make the jello very thin, then use cookie cutters to cut it into fun shapes for kids' parties and such.

A word of advice about juices... I have tried this with all kinds of juice and it's more of a crowd-pleaser with grape juice or one of those all-juice blends that is supposed to taste like tropical punch. The dark red and purple juices seem to yield the best results.

One other note... you may have noticed that I used a quart canning jar of pineapple and juice. Well, I'm about to let you in on another sneaky secret! It's actually marrow squash that I home-canned in pineapple juice! Yes, moms of the world, your children will actually be eating their vegetables if you make it like this, and they will never know the difference! Today I took it to a 4-H meeting and all the kids and adults gobbled it up, thinking it was pineapple! Mwah ha ha ha...

To answer your next question, marrow squash is a firmer, equally prolific (!) variety of zucchini. I had so much in my garden last year, I tried all kinds of ways to preserve it. This has to be one of the best. I used pineapple juice, some organic dehydrated cane, and chunks of marrow or zucchini, peeled and cut into tidbit size and shape. I did it with both zucchini and marrow, but prefer the marrow, as it's slightly firmer in texture.

(A pile of marrow and zucchini from my garden.)

Well, I guess that's it for now. I hope this kanten/jello becomes one of your favorite recipes. I hope you share it with all your friends and family, because it's just too good to keep secret.

Happy Mother's Day! I have lots of ideas for blog posts, and I'm quite eager to write them, but for now, back to my tasks at hand...

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