Jelly – that unimaginative staple of childrens’ parties – is having a renaissance. Having languished for decades in the culinary wilderness, the wibbly wobbly stuff is shaking off its unsophisticated image having been rediscovered by the influencers of social media.
Jelly – that unimaginative staple of childrens’ parties – is having a renaissance. Having languished for decades in the culinary wilderness, the wibbly wobbly stuff is shaking off its unsophisticated image having been rediscovered by the influencers of social media. For once I’m in agreement with the too-cool-for-school brigade. After all, who but the most po-faced amongst us hasn’t been captivated by the sight of a spectacular shimmering jelly? Those in search of culinary ‘wow’ factor, should look no further.
The humble image of our quivering friend belies the fact for centuries it had been synonymous with the most ambitious haute cuisine. Jelly had first appeared in the Royal courts of medieval Europe but it was during the 19th century that jelly making reached heights of gravity-defying brilliance. Dining tables in the great aristocratic houses and best London hotels positively groaned under the weight of showstopping wobblers that were as much design statements and culinary ones.
Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, the British became undisputed masters of the jelly mould. Manufacturers adapted the die-stamping techniques of their colleagues in the silver trade to the mass-production of jelly moulds in elaborate shapes – each one a miniature architectural masterpiece in copper lined with tin. The tin was important because it stopped the taste of the copper tainting the jelly and, more importantly, prevented your guests from dropping down dead with Verdigris poisoning. By the late 19th century, manufacturers were illustrating hundreds of designs in their catalogues – multi-tiered geometric crowns, battlemented castles with scrolling minarets often decorated on top with embossed birds, animals, crowns, fruits and flowers. So esteemed were British jelly moulds that chefs from the Continent were known to cross the Channel in search of the ultimate mould. If I find one in my stocking this Christmas, I shall be very happy.