The Victorians loved “snow” desserts which simply meant thickening almost anything, often fruit juice, with gelatin. (Gelatin was originally made from “isinglass,” essentially the bladders of sturgeon, and then, later on, Irish moss which is a form of seaweed that was washed and dried until it turned white. (Named after Ireland where it originated.) Of course, calf’s feet could also be used to make gelatin.
This recipe is based on one I found in the Boston Globe from 1896. I use much less gelatin although it is hard to compare today’s gelatin to the thickening power of what Fannie Farmer may have used over a century ago. It makes a fresh, light dessert. Our kids love it and so do I.
I prefer to make it with fresh-squeezed orange juice for a very light, refreshing dessert. Note that the egg whites will lose their shape and structure as they are gently whisked into the fruit juice. This is not a mistake.
2 3/4 cups fresh chilled orange juice, plus 2 teaspoon zest (fresh-squeezed juice preferred)
1/4 cup lemon juice, plus 1/2 teaspoon zest
1 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon (for whipping egg whites)
1/2 ounce powdered gelatin (2 envelopes)
3 cups boiling water
2 egg whites, whipped to soft peak
8 to 10 wine glasses for serving.
1. Combine citrus juice and zest with 1 cup sugar and whisk until sugar is almost completely dissolved and sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand 5 minutes. Add 3 cups boiling water, stir. Strain and chill to 45 degrees; mixture should just begin to set up. (This will take some time, up to an hour depending on your kitchen and the bowl you use.)
2. Beat egg whites and salt until very soft peaks start to form (peaks should slowly lose shape when whisk is removed). Add 1 teaspoon sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks have formed (and hold their shape). Add egg white mixture to gelatin mixture and fold whites in gently with whisk until incorporated. (This may look ugly as you fold — don’t worry!) Transfer to mold or wine glasses and chill.
Serves 8 to 10