A gelling agent commonly used in food, is made with animal collagen. Cattle hide and bones along with pig skins and bones are often used to make it for commercial purposes. There is a misconception that animal feet, horns, etc. are also part of the recipe. However, it is important to note that feet and horns of animals are made up of keratin and not collagen. Gelatin, in fact, is actually a protein and the ingredients include boiled animal bones, organs, connective tissues, etc. When gelatin is heated, it changes form from solid to liquid. On the other hand, when it cools down, it regains its solid state.
There are different varieties available in the market. The edible version is available in sheets, granules, or powder form. Traditionally, it has to be soaked in water before it can be used in various food products. But now a days, you can purchase instant gelatin that can be added to recipes without having to soak it first.
Kosher is a set of rules traditionally followed in the Jewish community and the laws deal with food standards. It says, food items which are made from different animals' flesh are non-kosher items. On the other hand, food items made from plants are considered kosher. However, gelatin is said to be kosher, as it derived from bones and not from flesh. Since the Jewish law prohibits consumption of pig meat, and as pig skins and bones are part of the ingredients to prepare gelatin, the regular kind cannot be consumed. So to manufacture kosher gelatin, fish bones are used instead.
Uses of Gelatin
Gelatin is most commonly used in various recipes and food items like desserts, trifles, marshmallows, candy corn, jello, jelly babies, gummy bears, and other confections. It can also be used to thicken foods items such as yogurt, jams, margarine, etc. There are a number of technical uses of gelatin as well. It is used to make capsules, photographic films, and photo paper. It is also used to manufacture implantable medical devices. Most of us are not aware but gelatin is present in nail polish remover and makeup as well.
If you are a vegan or for any religious reasons can't consume items that contain gelatin, you could substitute it with arrowroot powder, guar gum, kudzu, and agar-agar.