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Two years off, and it's time for my grand re-entry. So why not pick up where I left off on the Nestlé food theme. After all, have you got any better suggestions? Naturally, I will spend the next few minutes of your very kindly given time looking at Rowntree's Strawberry Flavour Jelly. Why not?
The jelly I'm referring to is a diluted mixture of glucose/gelatine and water to provide a distinctive, wobbly pudding which looks rather like candy trying to dance. It has a sweet flavour and a gelatinous consistency.
History of Rowntree's...
Rowntree's is a very British company, started by one Mary Tuke (a Quaker, the website politely informs) in 1725. Jellies have been produced by the firm since 1901, when it was under the command of Joseph Rowntree. To say this outfit don't have any knowledge or experience when it comes to solidified liquid is quite simply a lie.
Jelly is everyone's childhood favourite. Yes, that birthday party classic, great with ice cream or on its own, peppered with segments of fruit or even not mixed with water, undiluted, enjoyed in cube form, jelly's a delight to eat. It's a shame that as we grow older we forget how enjoyable a bit of gelatine can be.
Quite understandably, it has a reputation for being kiddies' food which seems to stem from the fact we all enjoyed it as kids - at those parties. So this is understandable really. I have yet to enjoy jelly as a dessert at a dinner party. I'm still waiting in eager anticipation because I can sincerely say it'd be lovely!
Rowntree's and Nestlé...
In spite of all its scandals and all the 'immoral' actions people will describe to you, when it comes to food, Nestlé is a name you can trust - simply because they can't afford to not be trusted. The Swiss group bought Rowntree in 1988.
Shopping for Jelly...
Jelly's funny stuff, really. It doesn't seem to have a natural home in a supermarket. In my local Waitrose (oh gosh, how posh), you'll find the different flavours lined up alongside the jams. The boxes are small, and don't jump out at you unless you're lingering for a while. Being only about six centimetres by ten, this is hardly surprising! You can expect to pay around 49p in just about any supermarket or small shop for a pack that will make you one family-sized jelly. That is, it'll feed the family. It's not as big as the family.
Jelly packs are only commonly available in small packs. Multipacks I haven't seen, but since jelly is so cheap, this isn't really an issue. And you won't find super-duper mega-large jellies - because they'd never set!
Right, I've bought my jelly. It has come home with me. It travels very well, coming as a box containing a plastic wrapper encasing the jelly 'cubes'. Everybody seems to have one lurking in a dark cupboard somewhere. It lasts for years and years without going off! Store it in 'a cool dry place' and it'll wait a good few years for its time to come before consumption. Great to keep for a rainy afternoon!
There's no genuine complication to the packaging. It's bright, almost to the extent of being garish, and certainly appealing to the children's market. A bright red colour dominates the box, obviously hinting to the 'Strawberry Flavour' which is announced in lovely curvy yellow text. If jelly were a font, then this is what it would look like.
Also embellishing the packaging is (shock horror) a set of instructions on how to prepare your jelly, which frankly are so simple even I can cope with them. Alongside this, a recipe is provided should a 'Wobbly Banana Split' appeal alongside numerous other concoctions. A nice touch, definitely something for someone to look out for if they want something new out of their gelatine.
Making the jelly is easy, then. But first we need to retrieve the 15 fluorescent red cubes (arranged in a 3x5 formation) from the plastic coating they come in. Apparently simple - a job for the scissors maybe - but the plastic will inevitably tear and you'll end up peeling bits of wrapper off the cubes. Sticky fingers, nice.
Wrestling with this hurdle shouldn't occupy anyone for more than a few moments, however - and a few souvenirs of your suffering are always appreciated by those who love the flavour of plastic in the final product. What I'm trying to say in a rather long-winded manner is that the packaging is bright, and the inner bag is hard to get off.
In fact, this isn't helped by the rather 'squidgy' nature of the cubes. They get stuck to things, meaning you have to peel them off your fingers or the worktop. But it's okay - it's worth it in the end.
Making the Jelly...
Since jelly is the only dessert I can really make well, I've become a bit of an expert at following those simple instructions. You'll want to use a pair of scissors to separate the 15 jelly blocks. From here, you need to follow two alternative sets of instructions to achieve jelly liquid, one involving a microwave and the other boiling water.
Both are incredibly easy processes, frankly only requiring the ability to stir and a pair of eyes. The most complicated it gets is working out how much water you're pouring into a measuring jug. And no matter which route you take, you wont spend longer than 10 minutes in the making process, then a few hours in the fridge will get that pudding hard and wobbly fast. I remember making a jelly being much younger, however, and it was hardly a Herculean task. There are one or two tips, however, that Rowntree have chosen to disclose in order to make that jelly one step ahead of the rest...
The setting process can also be rather slow, so the makers recommend using chilled/ice water where the addition of cold water is mentioned. This means the mixture cools quickly, allowing it to set with speed.
Also, take care in the dish you choose. When all jellies set, the entire charm of enjoying the 'dish' properly involves taking it out from the receptacle it has been allowed to set in. Just make sure you're going to be able to turn it out! Bathing the bottom of the bowl in warm water may allow the final product to slip out more easily.
A common serving suggestion with jelly is to add fruits to give that extra touch to the jelly. For example, in this strawberry jelly you may choose to add some… strawberries! It's worth letting the jelly sit in the fridge a bit before adding the fruit so the consistency of the jelly isn't completely watery. This will allow you to place the bits of fruit more carefully in the jelly rather than having them all sink to the bottom of the dish, concentrating the fruits in the upper part of the jelly once it's turned out. Consider that adding fruit may add some time to the setting process. Certain fruits can stop your jelly from setting. This is because they absorb certain agents in the jelly mixture that are needed to make the blend set. So, avoid fresh pineapple, kiwi or papaya to make sure it sets properly!
All fantastic ways to enhance your Rowntree's jelly, but frankly, I think it's fantastic as it is! The only other recommendation is to enjoy your jelly with vanilla ice cream. The flavour of Wall's, in particular, seems to complement Rowntree's jelly excellently! The flavour of the ice cream is suitably gentle to sit alongside the strawberry aroma which doesn't come through too strongly, so the two combined are not sickly or nauseating in the slightest. Gosh, who could take jelly so seriously?!
Both taste and consistency of jelly can be somewhat bizarre to a first-time consumer! Perfect after a finger-food type meal for kids, you'll find the first sensation to be that of eating very wobbly rubber. Rowntree's jelly does, however, have an excellent consistency. It is not too thick, and unlike some jellies I've enjoyed before, it is actually possible to put a spoon into the castle without it rebounding and knocking you in the nose.
After the initial feeling of rubber, or almost gum in your mouth, a general sweetness will start to come through - not quite strawberry, ahem, and perhaps a little sickly if not accompanied by some vanilla ice cream with some jellies, but Rowntree's has a good strength which is noticeable when eaten WITH ice cream but not overpowering when enjoyed without.
The colour of jelly, since it's a pretty artificial product designed to please the kids, is also essential! Rowntree's produces a bright red and slightly translucent affair. Eye-catching and entertaining to watch as it wobbles. It leaves the eater satisfied after consumption and, bizarrely, slightly amused. Must be enjoyed whilst chanting 'wibble wobble wibble wobble jelly on a plate'. It has to be good stuff - why else would there be a rhyme about it?!
Good for kids?...
I was considering the other day whether jelly is healthy. So for the first time in quite a while I actually made a jelly. Rather surprised the wife, but that's a good thing, I'm sure. I had a look at the ingredients and thought about the process. It's basically all water, when you think about it. Add hot water, cold water… Save for a few colourings, which if harmful are incredibly diluted, the rest is juice and sugar. If I'm wrong, let me know, but I think jelly is fine for children on an occasional basis. Of course, it's probably not nourishing, but as an occasional treat it's fantastic - even for me… The amusement and excitement it seems to give the younger ones must be a good thing, anyway!
Rowntree's recipe seems fairly safe, giving me little to worry about. The bright red screams strawberry (as well as colourings, perhaps), but something about jelly brings true inner satisfaction, amusement and instant youth. It's easy to make, inexpensive, entertaining and sometimes, just sometimes, that inner kid in me longs for some jelly. Sad, I know - it must be old age - but I want to be young again! Leave your sophisticated tarts and your minty tartufo. Jelly and ice cream. Now that was the life.