Introduction: Edible Tide Pod Jell-O Shots
Ok, I'm late to the party here, but if there are any timeless activities, surely eating Tide Pods and drinking alcohol fall are among the top of that list.
With the Tide Pod Challenge in full swing a few months ago, it was obvious what I needed to do. Like with almost every person, place, thing, or concept I meet, I decided we needed a Jell-O shot version.
The materials were obvious, but the shape was complex - if only I had known my molding putty was food-safe at the time. The mold route would give a good result, undoubtedly, but it would be time consuming, and I was eager to get to the Jell-O making. Luckily I was able to achieve a pretty good looking result with simple tools already in my kitchen. The most specialized thing you will need for this Instructable is a Jell-O egg mold or similar hemisphere mold, more about that in the next step!
Step 1: Supplies
- Pots, pans, mixing bowls, wisks, spoons, etc.
- Turkey baster
- Hot roller pins
- Snack size ziplock bags
- Easter egg gelatin molds
- Candle lighter
- 3 oz box of Berry Blue Jell-O
- 3 oz box of Orange Jell-O
- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (I got Eagle because I remember it being a very cool white from a recipe a few years ago, but was disappointed with how off-white the can I got was this time. If you remember any brands being a better shade of white, those will match the classic pod colors best!)
- Box of Knox gelatin (4 envelopes should be enough)
- Boiling water and cold water
- Clear alcohol (optional)
- Canned pineapple juice (optional)
- Food coloring (optional, but might help to tweak the Jell-O colors)
Step 2: The Science!
We all know Tide Pods are irresistible because they have the wiggle of a fine gummy candy or Jell-O snack, so Jell-O was an obvious medium to choose. But what exactly gives Jell-O it's wiggle?
If you don't have a vegan friend, it may surprise you that Jell-O, or the non-commercial brandname, gelatin, comes from animals, mostly from cows and pigs (sorry everyone). Gelatin is made from an animal protein known as collagen, which we mammals grow in 3 strand helixes in our bones and skin. These parts of the animal are processed to remove the pure gelatin which is sold in powders or sheets. In the case of Jell-O, there is flavor added to the powdered gelatin. When collagen comes into contact with boiling liquid (water, juice, alcohol even), the 3 strands unwind and straighten out. As the solution cools to room temperature, the strands start to curl up again, but not into nice helixes this time (no more Mr. Nice Helix). The strands tangle into a lattice and trap the water molecules inside. Water molecules suspended in a rickety lattice of tangled collagen make a jiggily semi-solid for us non-vegans to enjoy!
When finding recipes to base mine off of, it occurred to me to look up a finger Jell-O recipe for the 4th of July, so all I would have to swap out was the red for orange to get those classic Tide Pod colors. Many recipes for the white layer use sweetened condensed milk. I have made white gelatin with this ingredient before, and do enjoy it, but I was afraid since my white part was largest in this case, that straight sweetened condensed milk might be too cloying. I decided to add pineapple juice to my white part because I thought it would compliment the orange and berry blue Jell-O while at the same time not adversely altering the white color.
I knew from previous Jell-O making endeavors, that some fresh fruits have enzymes that break the collagen protein down. I was aware that pineapple is one of these fruits, but I wanted to learn more. It turns out the "enzyme" in question, bromelain, is actually a group of enzymes. Enzymes are biological catalysts that accelerate chemical reactions. The enzymes in bromelain are proteolytic enzymes, meaning they break down bonds in those protein strands we talked about. As the tangle of proteins is broken up, the liquid that was previously trapped escapes and the solution returns to a liquid state.
Fortunately, heat destroys the enzyme in question, so I made sure to pick up canned pineapple juice. Canned goods are heated during production, so I knew my protein bonds would be safe!
This video from The Sci Guys had great visuals for learning about this subject!
Step 3: Prepare the White Base Gelatin
For the white layer, you will need:
- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 Envelopes of Knox gelatin
- Boiling water and cold water
- Clear alcohol (optional)
- Canned pineapple juice (optional)
- Boil at least 2.5 cups of water on the stove
- Sprinkle the 2 envelopes of Knox over a half cup of cool water (or pineapple juice) to bloom
- In another bowl, mix the condensed milk with 1 cup of boiling water (or a mixture of boiling water and / or non-boiling alcohol and / or pineapple juice)
- Add 1/2 cup boiling water over the bloomed Knox mixture and stir to dissolve gelatin.
- Pour the gelatin mixture into the condensed milk mixture and mix well - I used a sieve to remove any undissolved globs of gelatin
Step 4: Mold the Bases
I figured the easiest way to mimic liquid inside a plastic wrapper was to put liquid inside a plastic wrapper. It ended up being a great way to do a large batch, so if you are having a party, this method is for you!
Take your snack bags and use 4 hot roller pins to section off 3 square areas on your bag as shown. The top of the middle square will remain open due to the length of the pins, but this helps with filling the bag mold. Zip lock from both edges of the bag leaving enough of the middle unzipped to insert the turkey baster tip.
Load up your turkey baster with the white gelatin mixture from the last step. Insert the baster into the opening left in the bag and begin to fill the bag. Since the hot roller pins have a rounded end, there is plenty of an opening for the gelatin to flow into the side chambers. After filling, completely zip the snack bag, and find a dish that allows the bags to remain upright. A large tupperware worked perfectly for me. Pop those babies in the fridge to gel.
When it's time to un-mold your bases, throw them in the freezer for about 30 minutes. The pods will come free from the bags better when they are frozen. You don't want to freeze them too long, however, as freezing can break the gelatin - I can't find much on the science here, but I am thinking the water trapped in the lattice expands and damages the collagen strands.
Step 5: Prepare the Blue and Orange Gelatin
My apologies, I don't have great photos of this step because it is pretty standard Jell-O Jiggler making protocol.
For each color, you will need:
- 3 oz box of Jell-O in desired color
- 1/2 Packet of Knox Gelatin
- Boiling water
- Alcohol (optional)
- Food coloring (optional)
- Stir together 3 oz Jell-O powder and 1/2 envelope of knox.
- Add 1 cup of boiling water. Optional, you could replace a portion of this with non-boiling alcohol, but it may be tough to dissolve all of the gelatin with less than a cup of boiling water.
- You may also want to add food coloring to deepen the colors. I thought the orange looked pretty close, but the Berry Blue Jell-O was pretty light, especially in such a thin shape.
Step 6: Mold the Orange and Blue
This step would be great if you could find rounded half moon molds of the right size, but sometimes you have to work with what you've got to create a revolutionary Jell-O shot. What I did have were trusty Jell-O brand egg molds for Easter (or anytime!). I figured I could use these molds to get a good starting shape, then do the rest by hand. You only need the bottom half of the mold, so if you are missing your top half, you are in luck. Or, any spherical / hemispherical mold of appropriate size should work.
I rubbed the molds with refined coconut oil to act as a release. Fill the mold so it's about 1/2 inch deep at the fullest part (the baster works well for this step as well), and pop in the fridge to set. Once set, do the freezer trick again. You do not need the full 30 min for these small shapes to harden. Once the pieces had frozen enough, I coaxed the pieces out by setting the mold in hot water from the tap for a few seconds, then, with clean fingers and steady force, I pushed on the Jell-O until it started to slide out. You will push a little off center to cause the Jell-O to unseat and slide up the side of the mold. Never fear if your Jell-O domes aren't perfectly smooth and shiny, we will fix that next!
Using a sharp paring knife, cut a curve to create a crescent shape. Then angle your knife to bevel the inner curve. Don't worry if this is a messy cut, we really just want to remove some material from that side.
The real trick to complete the shape is to use a candle lighter to carefully melt the surface. Make sure the pieces are on a surface where this is ok. Just melt the Jell-O enough to end up with an unbroken, smooth, glossy surface. You can trim off any run-off with your pairing knife.
Step 7: Assemble Pods!
Store as many of the different pieces in the refrigerator as you can while you work on assemblage.
I used the candle lighter to melt the surface of my base at the desired spot, then dropped one of my shapes on, then repeated for the other shape (which was impossible for me to do while taking photos). Because of the complex shape of the parts, you won't get complete contact between them, but you should be able to tack the colored parts on well enough to make a beautiful presentation. You could also prepare some Knox gelatin by blooming over 1/2 cup cold water, and stirring with 1 1/2 cup boiling water, and while it is still hot, brush it on both parts like a glue.
To keep the pods like new and easy to serve, I recommend putting them in those disposable dressing cups with lids.