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Sicilian strawberry jelly (gelo)

A colorful berry jelly, perfect for sunny garden parties!

ingredients for 6 servings (total cost about 5€ with organic products)
  • 700 g strawberries
  • 56 g cornstarch (maizena) – or 44 g wheat starch (frumina)
  • 50 g sugar (or more according to taste and the sweetness of the strawberries)
  • 20 ml lemon juice
  • zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 100 ml water
  • a few peppermint leaves
  • a pinch of salt

I am a huge fan – actually, a lover – of Sicilian Geli (well to be more precise, of Sicilian pastry, in general). During springtime, I usually prepare the strawberry gelo, which has a vivid opaque pink color and a creaminess, that I adore.

Geli acquire their body and texture with the addition of a thickening agent. The Sicilians traditionally use wheat starch as a thickener (amido di frumento or frumina, as they call it), which is very resistant to liquefaction and offers a special compactness.

Cornstarch (maizena) can be used instead, although its flaw is that it is more sensitive to liquefaction, thus the geli tend to leak after two days in the fridge. Therefore, if you can find frumina, it is the best choice. Just keep in mind that frumina is more powerful in terms of thickening ability and produces more dense geli, compared to cornstarch (This is why I suggest using a lower ratio of frumina, compared to the cornstarch).

Normally, I make my geli in individual molds, because they are more quick to chill and easier to serve. But, for a long time I wanted to make a big one, using a Bundt silicone mold and I found that the strawberry color was perfect to try it.

To brighten the flavor of the fruit, I like to use a little lemon juice. It is something I do with almost all my fruit preparations. Moreover, along with the strawberries and sugar, I blend the rind from 1/4 lemon, to add a little complexity to the taste. I also add some peppermint leaves – a great pair to strawberries – to give some spiciness to the taste.

So, we begin by mixing the sugar with the lemon zest and we set aside for about half an hour to let the sugar absorb the oils of the lemon.

Meanwhile, we wash the strawberries and we remove their stems. We place the strawberries, sugar/zest mixture and lemon juice into a blender and we puree them. We taste the puree to control its sweetness. If not sweet enough, we add more sugar to adjust it according to taste and blend a little more. We pass the pulp from a sieve (not very fine), to filter eventual unblended particles and we collect a runny puree. We need 500 g of puree.

We place the strawberry puree along with the peppermint leaves in a saucepan and we bring to a boil. As soon as the strawberry mixture, starts to boil, we remove the pan from the heat, we cover with cling film and we let infuse for about 10-15 min.

Meanwhile, in a bowl suitable for a double boiler, we sieve the starch and we dilute it with the water. Then we strain the strawberry puree to discard the peppermint leaves and we pour it slowly into the bowl with the diluted starch, whisking thoroughly to incorporate.

We place the bowl over a double boiler, filled half way up with gently boiling water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and we briefly cook it at medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, just until it thickens and we end up with a fine velvety cream.

It is not mandatory to prepare the gelo over a double boiler, but I prefer it, because this way the cooking is more gentle, more easy to control, avoiding over-cooking and lump forming.

We remove the bowl from the double boiler and we continue whisking a little more to let it cool a bit, then we transfer to a large mold, as I did, or to individual glasses, deep dishes, ramekins, or pudding molds.

We let it cool for a while at room temperature, then we cover with cling film and we keep in the fridge until serving time. It is best consumed the next day, but even if you cannot wait that long, wait for at least let 4 hours, as the jellification procedure continues until the jelly chills completely.

We decorate with fresh strawberries and serve cold.


Published in DESSERTS