Can Gelatin Go Bad?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by kyheirloomer, Jan 3, 2010.

  1. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Ok, a silly question. Can gelatin go bad?

    Lately, using a couple of tried and true Panna Cotta recipes, all or parts of them are not gelatinizing. Same ingredients; same quantities; same procedures. In one of them, for instance, a middle layer that's supposed to be a coffee-flavored gelee, barely thickens.

    I had never tought so, but can gelatin lose its strength? I've been using powdered, rather than sheets, if that makes a difference.

    If it's not the gelatin, per se, I'm open to other suggestions as to what might be the problem.
     
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  2. siduri

    siduri

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    Since I can;t find powdered gelatin here, I buy it in the states, and since I rarely use it, I think mine is at least 6 or 7 years old and still works fine. Unfortunately there is no expiration date on it. Isn't that strange? Doesn't all food require expiration dates in the states? Anyway, it never failed me so far.
     
  3. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    I always thought things that don't spoil have expiration dates just because the law required it. The gelatin I'm using, for instance, "expires" in November 2011.

    But you're right. If it was sold in the U.S. it's supposed to have a use-by date---like my saffron, which "expires" sometime in 2013. :rolleyes:
     
  4. ed buchanan

    ed buchanan

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    From what I gather there are different strengths of gran jell its given by what they call bloom count. I notice when I buy generic powder the bloom cound is listed lower the knox. I am talking 1 lb. canisters of gel powder. I have always found the danish sheet gel better then powder at least for aspics and chaudfroids.. I know here in Florida the humidity affects my sheet jell.
     
  5. chefray

    chefray

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    I have a jar of whole nutmeg in the cabinet that "expires" in 2015. I bought it in 1997.:lol:
     
  6. shechef

    shechef

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    hmmm. Well if gelatin gets exposed to moisture, that can make it less effective, but I'm more inclined to wonder if there is an ingredient in the coffee-flavored layer, or even the other layers, that is breaking down the gelatin. The enzymes in fresh pineapple and ginger root (among other fruits), for example, negatively interact with the proteins in gelatin, causing it to break down.

    As I mentioned in another post regarding gels, the heating of the gelatin is the most finicky part of the process and if it's mishandled at that point, then it won't set, but you sound experienced enough to not have let that happen.

    Could you share the rest of the ingredients in that recipe?
     
  7. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Thanks for responding, SheChef.

    First let me point out that this is not the first time I've made this particular version. And it's worked well each of the other times. That's what has me perplexed.

    The recipe comes from Camila Saulsbury's book, Panna Cotta, and she calls it Cappuccino Panna Cotta. It's a parfait-like presentation, with three layers. You start by making regular panna cotta, reserving almost half of it. To the other half you add instant espresso powder. The flavored half goes into glasses and is put aside to set. Meanwhile, you make the gel, which is merely brewed espresso with sugar and gelatin. You let that cool, and pour thin layers of it over the flavored panna cotta.

    When that layer is set, you pop the reserved panna cotta into the microwave just long enough for it to reliquify, but still remain cold. That's used to top the coffee gel.

    In Saulsbury's version, a thin layer of additional gel is made. This is cut into a small dice, used to garnish the dessert. Instead of that I go with a cinnamon-flavored whipped cream topped lightly with chocolate shavings.

    Everytime I've made it I follow the same procedure. The gelatin is first bloomed, then added to the hot liquid, and heated just long enough to completely dissolve. So, I don't think I'm overcooking it. And, given that it's worked perfectly in the past, I don't think there's anything in the ingredients that would attack the gelatin.

    As an aside, from what you've said, I would guess that papaya isn't a good choice for panna cotta either?
     
  8. chefray

    chefray

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    Are you using a different espresso bean than before for the brewed portion? I ask because a higher acidity in the bean, and therefore the final brew, could be keeping the gelatin from setting.
     
  9. chris.lawrence

    chris.lawrence

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    you're right, papaya is not a good choice- the protein-digesting enzymes are quite aggresive- and it would never gelate with gelatin.

    First a bit of info:

    As Ed mentioned, gelatine comes with very different bloom strengths, therefore your gelatin is very likely different to the gelatin in the recipe.

    There is approximately 18mg/g of tannin in roasted coffee beans. The more roasted coffee beans are, the more the tannins decline.

    And; powdered gelatin often has alot of other things in it, including hydrocolloids such as carageenan.

    What that means: as SheChef rightly questioned; gelatin isn't too happy with tannins, they cause precipitation of the liquid, and therefore prevent gelling. The higher the gel strength the more tolerant it can be.

    OR perhaps your simply not adding enough; To make a gel with gelatin self-supporting it needs to be AT LEAST 1% gelatin- however this can range up 3.3% depending bloom strength.

    Lastly carrageenan although is tolerant to tannins- is a pain in the a**! And from my experience, its very difficult to work with!

    Proposed solution; the most ideal solution would be to remove the tannin from the coffee- the industrial method of doing this is to form a sodium salt and pass through chloroform (!!) ... however a simple solution is to bind the tannins with something such as milk, and ensure that your coffee powder is made from FULL-ROAST beans; this will add depth and reduce tannin content.

    If you've made this recipe before with IDENTICAL ingredients and amounts (measuring by weight, not volume) then it is likely that your gelatin powder has deteriorated.
    If there was anything different it is likely to be your gelatin mix/bloom strength/amount and coffee roast and tannin content.

    Hope that (not too scientific answer) shines some light on things.
     
  10. oregonyeti

    oregonyeti

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    I love it when people can explain some of the chemistry going on.

    I like science and have some college credits in chemistry (as well as other sciences). On the other hand, when I was going to attempt to make pasta dough using lemon juice as the liquid, thinking it was a good idea, I had a couple culinary pros tell me it might not work because acids might get in the way of the protein structure.

    It didn't work and they were right. You don't need to be a chemistry wiz to be a chef, of course, but I thought it was kewl that the flop was predicted.
     
  11. ed buchanan

    ed buchanan

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    Funny you brought this up. Many years ago I had to make dough for potato knishes(50 pound batches) The female chef told me to add a bit of vinegar or lemon juice to the dough to stop it from getting tough, she told me it broke down the proteins and kept dough more tender. She was right.
     
  12. oregonyeti

    oregonyeti

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    And Ed, I just looked back on my old posts, and you were the first to say "hmmm, not so sure about that" when I asked about my lemon juice-pasta idea. :thumb:

    Phatch suggested lemon pepper pasta, which I definitely have to make some time. Ok sorry, back on topic eh
     
  13. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Thanks, Chris.

    I'm pretty sure it's not a change in the tannins. The recipe calls for instant espresso powder, which is hen's teeth around here. So I've been using regular instant powder, which I first run through the coffee mill and grind finer.

    Normally, instant coffee does not grace my shelves. So it's the same jar I started with when I first made this version.

    Based on no evidence at all, I've concluded it's the brand of gelatin. In the past I've always used Knox. This time, for some reason, Friend Wife bought the supermarket house brand. My problems date from opening that box.

    Although it's always problematical comparing recipes with different ingredients, I just looked at a recipe on the box and compared it's liquid content with that of the panna cotta recipe. Noticed that the box recipe uses considerably more gelatin for the same amount of liquid. So, while they don't talk about bloom rates, I'm thinking the house brand gelatin has less strength.

    I'm gonna make the panna cotta one more time, but increase the gelatin amount to see what happens.