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Dissecting a few agar-agar marmelade recipes.

I was teaching up north, and this particular group wanted herbs as used in foods. They also wanted uses for berry powders, and they wanted uses for sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) juice.

Marmelades are naturals for the berry powders and the juice, so I copied out 4 different agar-agar marmelade recipes. We used all of them. For a real comparison of the base recipes we should have used the same amount of the same berry juice/powder/whatnot for all of them, but that'd have been boring, so we didn't: the idea wasn't really to compare recipes, the idea was to try out as many different things as possible.

All recipes worked (as in, all marmelades firmed up rather soon after pouring), which honestly surprised me.

Here's a comparison of the recipes:

On the need of soaking agar-agar overnight
Recipes #1,2, and 4 said to soak, but the one we didn't soak overnight, as per recipe #3, also firmed up. The taste of that one was watery, though. Possibly we added too few strong-tasting things? Or it was the "no overnight soak", or the "no acid", I don't know. More experiments are needed. Sigh. I don't even like sugary things.

On the need for citric or other acids
Recipe #1 required citric acid, recipe #2 required tartaric acid (we used citric acid for that one, too, though), recipe #4 required very sour berry mash (lingonberry or cranberry), and recipe #3 didn't require anything acid at all ... but that was the watery-tasting one again.

On the amounts of sugar needed
To 8-15 g agar and half a liter of water:
Recipe #1 required 500 g sugar
Recipe #2 required 5 dl sugar
Recipe #3 required 1 dl sugar
Recipe #4 required 2-3 dl sugar
That's rather variable, no? That means that you can get away with far less than half a kg of sugar to half a liter of water.

On the need to let things dry out properly
Recipe #3 said to let the marmelade dry overnight, which would make it less sticky. That was a very good idea, and we did that to all of them.

On the need to sugar up the marmelades
If you cut the pieces and let them dry out, they won't stick to each other as much. If you want to roll them in something, do so pretty soon after you've cut them up. Roll the pieces in a bowl of berry powders, or herb powders (the same you made the marmelades with), or, if you absolutely have to, use sugar.

Herbs and berries used in making marmelades
You can use anything which strikes your fancy, but it's better if it has a strong taste. People had brought apple mash, sea buckthorn juice and various dried berry powders in addition to oodles and doodles of dried herbs, so we made the following marmelades:

  • recipe #1: we divided the liquid into 2 equal parts and added 1 dl dried powdered peppermint to one and 1 dl dried powdered nettles to the other. That was too much dried herb - ½ dl herb powder would have been fine for each half. Hmmm, I wonder what cocoa powder marmelade would taste like? Or instant coffee powder marmelade ...
  • recipe #2 (or #4, I forget): 1.5 dl very strong sea buckthorn juice, 0,5 dl sour apple mash. This was very tasty, and had a very good light yellowish-orange color.
  • recipe #3: 50 g dried black currant berry powder with peppermint, boiled up and the herb + powder strained out.
    The taste was very watery; don't strain out the powder, and don't use a strong herb tea, use dried powdered herb instead.
  • recipe #4 (or #2, I forget): 50 g dried cranberry powder, 100 g dried sea buckthorn powder, 2 dl sour apple mash. Tasty.

The recipes

  • Recipe #1: 12 g agar-agar, 5 dl cold water, 500 g sugar, 2 dl firm apple mash, 1.5 teasp. citric acid
    Soak the agar overnight, boil in the soaking water until it's melted. Add sugar and boil while stirring for 45 minutes. Add the apple mash and citric acid, stir. Pour into 1,5 cm thick layer and let set. Cut into bits and sugar the pieces.
  • Recipe #2: 15 g agar-agar, 5 dl water, 5 dl sugar, 2 dl apple, carrot or apricot mash, 2 teasp. tartaric acid
    Soak the agar overnight, boil in the soaking water until it's melted. Add sugar and boil until the sugar has dissolved. Let cool and add the mash and tartaric acid. Pour and let set. Cut into pieces the following day. Sugar the pieces if you wish.
  • Recipe #3: 1 tablesp. (8 g) agar-agar, 5 dl water, 1 dl sugar, 1 dl juice concentrate
    Boil sugar and agar for 45 minutes while stirring, take off heat, add juice, pour. Let set. The next day: turn the marmelade over and let the underside dry for a few hours, too. Cut up.
  • Recipe #4: 13-15 g agar-agar, 5 dl water, 2-3 dl sugar, 2 dl lingonberry or cranberry mash
    Soak the agar overnight, add sugar, let boil for about 1 hour or until you get fibers. Let cool, add lingonberry- or cranberry mash, pour and let set. Once set, turn over and let the underside dry. Cut up, roll in sugar.