Introduction: How to Make (edible) Creepy Things Encapsulated in Gelatin
Second Prize in the
Halloween Food Contest
Everything you see pictured is made out of gelatin (jello), even the trapped creepy crawly things inside! The process to make these is the same that you see with the colorful flowers encapsulated in gelatin, which has its origins in Mexico.
I watched some beautiful flower tutorial videos one day when I stumbled upon Ann Reardon's "How to Cook That" and her gelatin flower tutorial. At the end of her video, she showed how she made her three sons a spider encapsulated in gelatin, since they weren't impressed with the pretty flowers she created.
It was brilliant! I had to try it.
I wanted to see if I could use other things to mold in the gelatin--fingers, bugs, rats, eyeballs. Such fantastic creepy results for an easy process to follow.
The best part is. . . I can't wait to put these in my kids' lunches for school.
Step 1: The Hardware
- 6 - 8 plastic domed cup lids
The lids I used for encapsulating the creepy things in gelatin, is nothing more than the lids for parfait desserts you find at the grocery store. I'm sure you can find them online, or at bulk warehouse stores in packs of 500 or something ridiculous. I didn't need that many for this experiment, so I chose to eat my way through a couple of desserts (with the help of my family), you know, for the sake of science and this instructable.
- round ice cube maker containers (2 packs of 4)
You can find these online as well, but I've had mine stashed away in my craft supplies for years now. It was only on a whim that I remembered them and where they were hiding, so I could play around with them to see if they made good jelly eyeballs.
- plastic spiders, rats, bugs, fingers
I grabbed what I could find around the house in the kids' toys that would make good creepy molds. If you are concerned with plastics, and what they may or may not leach into food, you can practice your carving skill on a raw carrot and use it as your mold-maker.
- syringes (5 ml or 10 ml) and blunt-fill needle tips (18 gauge)
It is not as hard as it seems to come across these. They are not the needles you inject into your skin (such as insulin needles--which would be way too small and would clog instantly with gelatin), because these have a blunt tip that can't easily pierce the skin and are way too large for that purpose anyway.
- muffin-tin and/or cookie sheet
Just makes it easier to move jellies in and out of the refrigerator quickly, which unfortunately, you will be doing a lot!
Step 2: The Software
- gelatin, unflavored (and water) Four to six tablespoons worth or around nine of the 1/4 oz packets. If you don't want to stomach the regular jello, there are vegan alternatives like Agar, Carrageenan, or Vegan Gel. I haven't tried any of these, but if they can produce a firm jello texture, then they should work!
- can of sweetened condensed milk
- whole cream
- granulated sugar
- food colors, chocolate syrup or powder, colored food powders
- clear flavoring extracts like almond, coconut, lemon, or clear vanilla
- cooking oil for mold-releasing
Step 3: Clear Gelatin
First cut off all the legs of the plastic creatures you are using as mold makers, as the legs (and tails) get in the way when you need to remove the toys from the gelatin and end up destroying your fragile imprint. Trim the long fingernails down on the finger covers if you want it to look more like a man's severed finger instead of a lady's. Lightly coat the toys and the inside of the plastic dome lids with a thin film of cooking oil, and wipe it off with a paper towel--not much is needed for the jello to release its hold on the toys.
Bloom 2 Tablespoons (3/4 oz) of the unflavored gelatin into 1/2 cup cold water. Set aside.
Bring just to a boil on a stovetop:
2 cups water
5.25 oz sugar (approximately 2/3 cup)
1/2 tsp clear flavoring (I went with clear vanilla for the clear gelatin)
Remove from stovetop after it has begun to boil and stir in the 1/2 cup gelatin until it has all dissolved. Pour the clear gelatin into microwavable safe glass container until ready to use. Now if you find that your gelatin has set while creating your creepy jellies, you can easily reheat it in the microwave for a few seconds to liquify it again.
Fill your domed lids with the clear gelatin, but leave a little headroom at the top so the gelatin doesn't overflow when you place your creatures in it. Use toothpicks and/or tape to float the toys half submerged in the gelatin. Put containers in refrigerator until gelatin is set and firm to the touch.
Note: If you are only creating the domed lids portion of this instructable, the recipe above is enough for 8 lids. If you are creating 8 eyeballs in the round ice-cube containers as well, you will need to double the above recipe to make enough clear gelatin for both.
Step 4: Milk Gelatin
Bloom 2 Tablespoons (3/4 oz) of the unflavored gelatin into 1/2 cup cold water. Set aside.
Bring just to a boil on a stovetop:
14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk topped with whole cream to make a total of 2 cups
1/2 tsp clear flavoring (I went with coconut for the milk gelatin)
Remove from stovetop after it has begun to boil and stir in the 1/2 cup gelatin until it has all dissolved. Pour the milk gelatin into microwavable safe glass containers to color in small batches. Now if you find that your gelatin has set while creating your creepy jellies, you can easily reheat it in the microwave for a few seconds to liquify it again.
Color small amounts of the milk gelatin with your liquid food colors, powdered cocoa, etc. Concentrated gel colors can be used in very small amounts. Deep, dark colors in the gel form (like red and black) can bleed from the colored milk gelatin into the clear gelatin even after it has set, and make your molded jelly not as sharp in detail as you would like.
Step 5: Eyeballs
The main white part of the eyeballs is made by mixing about a teaspoon or two of the white milk gelatin into 2 whole cups of the clear gelatin! It gives it the realism of an eye that a pure white gelatin or a pure clear gelatin couldn't give on its own.
Fill the round containers up until you like the size of the headspace left to be the size of the colored iris. Let gelatin set in refrigerator until firm.
Drip colored milk gelatin into hole until you have the iris part formed. Let gelatin set until firm in refrigerator (it will set quickly in minutes). Add only a few drops of black milk gelatin until the pupil is created and let gelatin set until firm in refrigerator (probably will already be set from the coldness of the rest of the gelatin even before you finish the batch!).
Lastly, add the clear gelatin all the way to the top of the round container to finish the eyeball. Let gelatin set until firm in refrigerator.
Step 6: Severed Fingers
Carefully--carefully--dislodge your plastic finger from the cold, set gelatin. I find that the tip of the 18 gauge needle, bought specifically for this project, works nicely to run around the edge of the toy and the gelatin to loosen the suction!
If you have a fingernail on the finger, fill it in first by sucking the colored milk gelatin into the syringe first, then attaching the 18 gauge needle on the end. Insert the end of the needle carefully into the mold where the fingernail is located, and squeeze the syringe to inject the milk gelatin into the nail hole. It should set fairly quickly because of the surrounding cold gelatin, but wait a minute or two to make sure it is firm before you put in the next color so it doesn't bleed into it.
You can use a clean syringe, or wash out the one you just used, to now suck up the fleshy color and drip the milk gelatin into the rest of the finger mold (you don't need the needle on the end). After you have let the milk gelatin firm up in the refrigerator for a few minutes, you can drip the blood-colored gelatin on the bottom of the finger to cover the irregular edges in the mold. Back again to the fridge to set.
Step 7: The Rat and Mr. Cockroach
The rat and the cockroach are the same process as the severed fingers: Carefully--carefully--remove your plastic toy from the cold, set gelatin. I find that the tip of the 18 gauge needle, bought specifically for this project, works nicely to run around the edge of the toy and the gelatin to loosen the suction!
If you left the tail on the rat, be prepared for it to not remove as smoothly from the gelatin as you want. After filling the syringe with the color of your choice, use the now needle-topped syringe to inject the colored milk gelatin into the tail section first, by placing the needle into a few spots of the tail and injecting the gelatin slowly until the tail fills up, section by section. The small circumference of the needle, and the fact that the metal conducts the heat from the warm gelatin into the surrounding cold gelatin rather quickly, will make the needle tip periodically clog. Heating the needle in the cup of hot water nearby will get the cold gelatin clog in the tip freely flowing again. No power injecting or you'll just have a blowout in the form and all your hard work won't look as nice!
Fill in the rest of the rat with the milk gelatin by drops out of the needle-less syringe into the rat-shaped gelatin hole. Put back in the refrigerator to firm up the gelatin.
Mr. Cockroach is the same process, only you don't need the needle tip on the syringe to first inject any milk gelatin, just use the syringe to drop the colored milk gelatin in the cockroach-shaped hole. Let the gelatin firm up in the refrigerator.
I swear by using cocoa powder to color the milk gelatin a nice brown color with little flecks of dark brown--it makes the creepy crawlies look so realistic! If you find your chocolate milk gelatin is still too chunky even after thorough mixing, you can run it through a fine-mesh sieve to catch and remove the large clumps of powder.
Step 8: Spiders
The spiders aren't any more difficult than the other toys, but they do have another step involved--the legs and web. I included a video of this step to show the simple process.
After you remove the toy bodies from the gelatin, you can fill in the body cavity with drops of the colored milk gelatin of your choice. Let set until firm in the refrigerator and then fill up your syringe with more of your colored milk and place on the needle tip.
You'll want to do the spider's jointed legs in two different directions/angles, with two different entry points. First, you enter through the spider's body at an angle with the needle and inject the colored milk gelatin into the clear gelatin, all the while squeezing more colored gelatin in while removing the needle out of the entry point. After those eight short leg segments are done, you will want to connect to the joint in the leg by inserting the needle in through a spot in the clear gelatin. Squeeze the colored gelatin in while removing the needle out at the same angle you entered in with. Ta-da! Jointed spider legs!
I thought having the spider, frozen-in-time, shooting a web out of its bum would be a neat effect, so I grabbed the leftover milky-clear gelatin I used for the eyeballs and injected in a few places in the clear gelatin behind the spider and pulled out through the entry point.
Step 9: Final Clear Gelatin Layer
So they look like they are floating in gelatin, add a final pour of clear gelatin over the finished colored milk gelatin forms. Let set until firm in the refrigerator. To unmold the domed jellies, gently pull back on the edges of the firm gelatin until it detaches from the sides of the plastic lid. Continue to do this around the edges of the container until you come to your original starting point. Flip the dome over and watch the gelatin slide out slowly if you remembered to grease the inside with a schmear of cooking oil.
To unmold the eyeballs, gently and slowly open the round ice container, giving the gelatin time to unlatch from the top half of the container. Pull back on the sides of the eyeball to detach it from the lower half of the round container. Gently grasp the eyeball and pull up slowly, and it should remove easily from the container and without tearing.
Step 10: Put Them in Your Kids' Lunches
Your kids will be the stars of the school lunchroom, grossing out their friends and teachers and daring them to take a bite, when you include a creepy severed finger or a web-shooting spider in their lunch! Just throw in an ice pack to keep the gelatin nice and cool until it's ready to be eaten.
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.