Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Happy birthday with jelly and ice cream!

It's blog party time again, and this time we're celebrating Stephanie's birthday! I immediately started thinking of kiddie party food, but for once it was the drink which came to me first. A few weeks ago we went to a local food fair with our friends Vicki and Paul, and saw a company selling old fashioned drinks in old fashioned bottles. I was intrigued by the sarsaparilla but Vicki and The Scientist were both smitten by cream sodas and bought a bottle each. I've only once ever had cream soda at a friend's house - we never had it at home, I'd never heard of it before that day, and I've never had it since. I'd assumed it was an American drink but Vicki says she used to have it as a child at her grandma's house, where it was served with milk (even she thinks this was weird in retrospect, though who knows, perhaps it's delicious). I remembered that I'd liked the taste I'd had all those years ago but had taste-memory of something very sweet and artificial. The drink we bought at the food festival was a very superior version - still sweet, but full of lots of other subtle flavours (vanilla's the only one I can remember but there were definitely more!). A few days later I got round to googling how it was made, and came up with this recipe. It's a cinch! Although possibly one of those drinks you'd rather not know how to make - water, sugar, vanilla, and a surprising pinch of yeast. Shake it up, let it stand, refrigerate, drink. And it tasted just like the artificial but fun drink I remembered from my childhood! I served it in this glass because it reminded me of the glasses my grandparents used to serve shandy in.

Now, what finger food to serve with my cream soda? Well, cream made me think ice cream, and ice cream made me think jelly. And jelly reminded me of the rest of the packet of vegetarian gelatin I still had sitting mournfully in the cupboard after my failed marshmallow attempt. I read various recipes but in the end winged it a bit as I was adapting it to use the veggie stuff, which (so the packet says) has different properties from the piggy-based one. Essentially I dissolved some sugar in some water with some blackberries but then removed it from the heat and stirred in half a packet of the gelatin (it has to be mixed in to cold liquid). Then I returned it to the heat, boiled it, and took it off again. Then I watched it, nudged it with a spoon, wondered how soon it was supposed to show signs of setting, panicked, added more gelatin, returned it to the heat, boiled it and cooled it, and strained it into the funky little party glasses you see in the photo. I don't know whether it would have set with the original amount of gelatin but it certainly did with more, anyway. Science in the kitchen, eh - The Scientist would be proud (if it had a bit more rigour and a bit less randomness).

So happy birthday, Stephanie! Enjoy your jelly and (ice) cream soda!


Johanna said...

I love your jelly glass - very elegant party serves - and am glad to see some success with your veggie gelatin

we had creamy soda when I was little but I had some organic version lately and it was incredibly sweet - E says he thought it was american too but I think he did have it occasionally in Scotland

Holler said...

I used to love cream soda as a child. I never had it made fresh though, it was in a glass bottle, I think from the Barrs company who make irn bru. The strongest flavour is definitely vanilla. Oh, I am craving some now!

P.S. Your entry is up on the No Croutons Required September roundup, along with the voting poll.

Good Luck

Natashya said...

My son and I once spent a day in the kitchen trying to recreate sodas, it was a blast.
I have not made jelly before, yours looks great.
Great to see you at the party!

Vicki said...

A little internet research has led to the discovery that apparently it's an Asian tradition to have milk with your cream soda - there's even a Chinese film named after it:

So I feel somewhat vindicated that I'm not completely strange - although how we came to adopt an Asian drinking tradition I have no idea!

Lysy said...

Ooh, you sleuth, Vicki! You can tell you have good training in research :)
I wonder where your family got the custom from?