Spring has sprung!
Spring has sprung, blood oranges are in season and strawberries are abundant. I love the vibrant pink hue of blood orange juice, so I decided to make a blood orange jelly with rosewater fruits. I think that the delicate flavour of the rosewater marries well with the juicy blood orange segments and strawberry slices.
The blood orange jelly is quick to make, and it’s not too sweet (like the artificially sweetened jellies I remember). I remember making jelly a lot for the kids when they were little, but it’s a dessert that we don’t have that often any more.
My friend Hartley gave me some Victorian-era porcelain jelly moulds for a significant birthday a little while back. They have beautiful patterns inside. I’ve been a little anxious about using something so old, and worried that my blood orange jelly would collapse when I removed it from the mould.
I usually pour the jelly into little glasses or ramekins. However, now that I know I can ease the jelly out of the mould without it collapsing, I’ll be making more of this refreshing dessert.
My daughter and I enjoyed our blood orange jelly together on the porch in the spring sunshine, with the fragrant jasmine lingering in the air.
Blood oranges are believed to have originated in Sicily. The climate along the east coast between Sydney and Melbourne in Australia is comparable with the Mediterranean climate of Sicily. This makes Australia an ideal growing environment for blood oranges.
They’re in season in Australia from August to October, so make the most of them while you can.
Their distinctive colour is the result of the presence of antioxidants called anthocyanins, which are usually found in red berries and not citrus fruits. This red color carries through to the blood orange’s peel, where flushes of pinkish red appear on their dark orange skin.
They are also reputed to be an excellent source of fibre, vitamin C and antioxidants.
When storing, blood oranges will last for a week in a bowl at room temperature, or up to three weeks in the fridge.
The origin of jelly
The word jelly comes from the French word gelée, meaning ‘to congeal’ or ‘gel.’ It is derived from its Latin root gelare, meaning ‘to freeze.’
Extracting gelatine from animal bones in centuries past was a time-consuming process, and therefore gelatine dishes were considered a luxury before the 19th century. Medieval cooks boiled meat with spices and then let the mixture set. Gelatine was traditionally used for savoury dishes, such as aspic, a dish of collagen-rich meat stock and gelatine in which meats and vegetables were set.
Pollyanna’s offering of calf’s foot jelly to Mrs Snow (Pollyanna, 1913, by Eleanor Porter) comes to mind. Apparently, this was quite a popular dish to serve invalids, although it’s believed to have little nutritional value.
Later, gelatine was mixed with sugar and fruit juice for a dessert. The first known written reference to jelly as a dessert was in a 1747 cookbook titled The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy, by English woman Hannah Glass. Her recipe featured jelly as a layer in a trifle.
Vegetarian alternatives to gelatine
There are many vegetarian alternatives to gelatine, most of which I confess, I’m yet to try. Here are just a few:
Agar agar is a gelling agent extracted from red algae, so it’s a viable vegetarian alternative for setting jellies. You can buy it in strips or powdered form. It has a higher melting point than gelatine, so it gives jellies a firmer texture.
Pectin is a fibre that’s found in the cell walls of many fruits. When pectin is heated and mixed with acids and sugars, it forms a thick gel-like substance. It’s great for jams and jellies. I do recall making my own quince paste with pectin during COVID lockdown.
Carrageenan, also known as carrageen or Irish moss, comes from dried red seaweed. It develops a gel-like consistency similar to agar agar when it’s boiled.
Xanthan gum is a natural powdered thickener, popular in gluten-free cooking. It’s made when Xanthomonas campestris, a strain of bacteria, ferments sugar from ingredients like rice or corn. The gum can be rehydrated with water. This transforms it into a sticky substance used to thicken recipes.
Blood orange recipes
If you like fruit in salads, you might like to try this colourful blood orange and golden beetroot salad.
When you’ve used the flesh to make the blood orange jelly, don’t throw out the skins. You can boil them up to make a cordial.
PS: If you’ve tried this blood orange jelly with rosewater fruits, or any other recipe from At Amanda’s Table, please let me know how it turned out in the comments below. And, if you’d like to read more, please subscribe to my monthly newsletter for stories, recipes and tips for simple, nutritious meals.
Blood Orange Jelly with Rosewater Fruits
Blood Orange Jelly
- 200 ml blood oranges juice, (3-4 blood oranges)
- 200 ml water
- 3 tsp caster sugar (15 g)
- 2 tsp powdered gelatine (10 g)
Rosewater Fruit Salad
- 2 blood oranges, peeled and cut into segments
- 1 punnet strawberries, sliced
- 1 tbsp rosewater
- 2 tbsp baby mint leaves
- 2 tbsp roasted unsalted pistachios, finely chopped
Blood Orange Jelly
- You will need to begin this recipe about two hours before you intend to serve it.
- Bring the water to the boil and whisk in the sugar until it has dissolved.
- Remove from the heat. Sprinkle the powdered gelatine over the top of the water, then whisk it until the gelatine has dissolved completely.
- Cool the liquid for about ten minutes, then stir in the blood orange juice.
- Pour into one large 400ml capacity jelly mould or four 1/3 cup capacity ramekins.
- Cover the jelly and refrigerate until set, about two hours.
- To remove from the mould, dip the base of the mould into hot water briefly. Gently ease the jelly away from the edge of the mould with a butter knife, then tip onto a flat plate. Serve immediately with the rosewater fruits.
- Toss the blood oranges segments and sliced strawberries with the rosewater in a small bowl. Garnish with the baby mint leaves and the chopped toasted pistachios.