Monday, March 17, 2008

Irish Moss Jelly

IMG_0003 mrs beeton ad chivers jellies
Irish recipes are on the menu today (I know, that is pretty lame, but it is Monday, that's my excuse) - because it is St. Patrick's Day today, that's what. As well as Monday. Don't have any special Monday recipes though.

Also, you probably ought to know that I am partly Scotch-Irish, though also part regular-Irish by marriage. That counts, doesn't it? As a genealogist I consider all my ancestors-in-law sort of mine, too. Especially if I found them in the census! So my Irish-by-marriage ancestry is from Kerry (or Cork, I haven't worked that out quite yet). And on my side, from Tyrone and Londonderry.

I have got two variations of one recipe in honor of the day. The first is from Mrs Beeton's All About Cookery (ca 1925-30). Yes, I know she was English. But her ingredients are Celtic-sounding. And everyone should celebrate St. Patrick's Day - even Mrs. Beeton.

Irish Moss Jelly

Ingredients: 1/2 an oz. of Irish moss or agar agar, 1 pint of water, 1/2 a glass of sherry (optional), 1 dessertspoonful of lemon-juice, sugar to taste.

Method: Wash the moss thoroughly, and soak it in cold water for about 12 hours. Strain, put it in a stew-pan with 1 pint of water, and simmer gently for about 5 hours, adding more water as evaporation occurs, so as to keep the quantity of liquid to 1 pint. Strain, sweeten to taste, add the lemon-juice and sherry (if used), and turn into a mould previously rinsed with cold water. Irish moss possesses medicinal properties, but the flavour is somewhat unpalatable, hence the necessity of disguising it with sherry or lemon-juice. Time: about 17 hours.

Irish moss (carraigin or fiadhain in Irish Gaelic) is a seaweed found on the rocky North Atlantic coasts in Europe and North America. It ranges in color from yellow-green to red to brown-purple, and is full of carrageen, which forms a jelly when heated to a boil. Irish or carrageen moss is also rich in protein, iodine and other minerals. Carrageenan, which is derived from this seaweed, is used as a stabilizer in products such as ice cream. In Asia it is used in jellied desserts, as it is similar to agar agar. It can have a sea-water taste, according to Wikipedia, so it is usually combined with other, more dessert-friendly flavors.

Another seaweed (genus Gracularia) is called Irish moss in the Carribean, where it is used in beverages and desserts, which often have vanilla or strawberry added to them.

But do the Irish eat Irish moss jelly? The name sort of suggests that they do, doesn't it? Mary Caherty's Real Irish Cookery(Robert Hale Ltd, London, 1995), is a tiny book and the only Irish cookbook in my collection. She has a recipe for "Carrageen Jelly" which is very similar to Mrs. Beeton's. She suggests that you boil an ounce of "Carrageen moss" in a pint of milk, with 2 dessertspoonfuls of sugar and a bit of salt, after soaking the moss for 15 minutes in cold water. After simmering this for half an hour, one strains the mixture and puts it in a mold to set. She also recommends adding some stewed fruit just before you put it in the mold (Caherty, pp 55-56). And it probably wouldn't take 17 hours to make, which beats Mrs. Beeton.

And if you used gooseberries, you would get a lovely green jelly, just right for St. Patrick's Day!

The image is from one of the many delightful old ads at the beginning and end of the Mrs. Beeton book - there were a lot of ads for gelatins. No Knox or Cox gelatin though.Irish Moss Jelly

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