Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Homemade Gumdrops

My oldest wanted to give John and Danita Thomas' Kid Concoctions & Contraptions, one more chance, before we returned it to the library. He decided to give their "Gooey Gumdrops" a try. Having been surprised by the results of our other attempts at the book's concoctions, I decided to hedge our bets, and make several batches of gumdrops, each from a different recipe.

The Kid Concoction recipe was the most kid friendly of the bunch. It mixed unflavored gelatin with water, sugar, food coloring, flavor extract, and some heated fruit juice. Since, the juice could be heated in the microwave, and no actual stove time was required, my son was able to complete the recipe completely on his own.

However, the taste was horrible. That might have been partly our fault, for picking almond extract as our flavoring, though. But, beyond that, the texture was terrible too. It was something like eating super dried out Jello Jigglers. And, there was an odd chemical reaction when they were rolled in sugar (the last step of the recipe), that caused the sugar to melt off, leaving the plastic like gelatin cubes wobbling in pools of sweet goo - yuck!

Not to worry though, as I said, we had three more recipes to try. We found two of them on the same page, here, at Suite 101. The first used fruit pectin, instead of gelatin, and we opted for cherry extract, instead of almond. The flavor was greatly improved, but despite my best efforts to follow the recipe exactly, the pectin did not set up, and we ended up with a great tasting, gooey mess. These did not make good gumdrops, but (and I can't believe I'm saying this for the second time this week), if they were mixed with green food coloring, you'd have an excellent imitation snot - edible this time.

The second recipe from Suite 101, was another that used unflavored gelatin, but without any juice. We flavored this batch with vanilla extract, and were quite pleased with the results. The candy turned out a little soft, and sticky, but the taste and texture, are very much how you might imagine a fresh gumdrop should be.

Finally, we tried a recipe from Taste of Home. It substituted flavored Jello for the flavored extract, making it the most economical recipe of the bunch. It also called for applesauce, and a bit of lemon juice. The texture of the candy was slightly more firm, and less sticky than the batch from the previous recipe, but the applesauce really came through, giving it a flavor more akin to Aplets and Cotlets, than to gumdrops. Still, they are quite yummy.

Much to my surprise, despite the large amounts of sugar, and sticky goo being tossed around the kitchen, the cleanup at the end of the day, was pretty simple. One of the nice things about sugar is how easily it dissolves in water. Which reminds me, anyone have any thoughts on why the first recipe would have made the sugar dissolve on contact? I guess, maybe, we're not finished with Kid Concoctions and Contraptions after all.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

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