Making food essences with gelatin filtration

Harold McGee writes in the NY Times about gelatin filtration:
200709061916 -- a way to make sparklingly clear liquids that are intensely flavored with ... well, whatever you like: meats, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads, any and all combinations of ingredients.

Why would anyone want to make such a thing? Think of such liquids as essences. They have no fibers, no pulp, no fat, no substance at all. They’re just flavor in fluid form, perhaps with a tinge of color, like a classic beef consommé. In fact chefs are calling these essences consommés, and they often use them the same way, as a soup or a sauce. And they can be delightfully surprising, because their appearance often gives no hint of the pleasure they’re about to deliver.

Link (Thanks, Carl!)


  1. This also seems to be the method that the lead character Grenouille used in Perfume to capture the
    “essence” of his victims.

    The actual movie I speak of is called
    Perfume: The story of a murder

    Definately quite a good watch, and gives you an insight into the perfumers craft.

  2. Sounds perfectly plausible to do in your own kitchen. I’d suggest just experimenting. I haven’t done this yet, but I’m sure going to try it. The method would be something like:

    * Put whatever you want the flavour of into hot (but probably not boiling in most cases) water, and keep it warm for a few hours. Experimentation required to find the ideal temperature, but shouldn’t be too hard. If what you want to purify is naturally juicy, squeeze out the juice instead.
    * Add a small amount of gelatin. I’ve seen 0.5% by volume recommended, but some experimentation may be necessary again.
    * Freeze.
    * Defrost over a filter and collect the liquid that runs out.

    The article mentions that the technique was used by Heston Blumenthal (owner of the Fat Duck in the UK) as early as 2005. Blumenthal published a book on his cooking techniques in 2006, so this may or may not be included in it (I don’t have a copy yet). See amazon page here.

    This message board thread might also be helpful.

  3. Great linkage, Jules. I’m a fan of Harold McGee since hearing about his book On Food and Cooking on NPR.

  4. Gelatin is a clean, highly process, soluble component of cow hooves. It’s found in lots of other things as well.

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