Here is my lame attempt at explaining why I decided to include this in my "Whoda Thunk" Blog. Now if you haven't already figured out what the subject of this entry is, I will tell you. It's J-E-L-L-O! So just how did this subject pop into my mind you are probably wondering. Well my wife got into a conversation today with a good friend of hers and it was concerning a Jello eating contest. My wife proceeded to tell her friend why Jello doesn't have the same appeal that it once had. Others were listening in and there seemed to be a mixture of chuckling and disbelief when my wife explained how Jello was made. In addition to that they also quizzed her as to how she knew these things. My wife explained that she gained this knowledge when she visited the Jello Museum. Once again there was more chuckling and more disbelief. To her surprise she seemed to be the only person present that had been to the Jello Museum. Geez, we figured everyone had been to the Jello Museum! I guess we are just a bit more cultural than others. And yes, I do take my wife to some of the finer places and the Jello Museum is a prime example.
So how did we come to visit the Jello Museum and just where the heck is it? The museum is in Leroy New York. Where else would a Jello Museum be other than in a town named "Leroy". We were on one of our spontaneous weekend trips on the motorcycle where we wander around with no destination and no itinerary when we spotted the Jello Museum. Naturally we jumped at the chance to broaden our knowledge so we pulled right into the parking lot. While it's true that we left there with gobs of information about Jello, there were a few tidbits of info that we would have been happier not knowing. And we will share that with you.
By now your probably bursting at the seams with curiosity as to how this delicious dessert is made. This would also be your chance to hit the Back tab and you will be able to go through life looking at this jiggly colorful concoction with continued delight. Okay, you had your chance so here goes nothing.
Jello is made of 4 main ingredients, gelatin, water, sugar or artificial sweetener or flavoring and food coloring. Doesn't sound all that bad does it? But lets dissect the first ingredient gelatin. What exactly is gelatin and how is it made? It sure doesn't sound bad does it? Well here's how it's made. Gelatin is actually a processed version of a structural protein called collagen. Collagen is a fibrous protein that strengthens the bodies connective tissues giving them elasticity and movement. It's in the human body as well as cows, pigs and other animals. Gelatin can come from the bones of pigs or cows or from their hides or connective tissues. Today, the gelatin in Jell-O is most likely to come from pigskin. Now I'll tell you how this all comes together.
Collagen doesn't naturally dissolve in water so it must be modified to make gelatin. To do this the pigskins are ground up and treated with either a strong acid or strong base to dissolve the collagen. This treated solution of dissolved pigskin is then boiled producing a jelled scum which is skimmed off the top. This solution is dried and then ground into a fine powder. After that a bit of coloring, artificial flavoring and sweetener is added and we have Jello. Probably not what you wanted to hear, but that's the scoop.
Jello actually had a really rough beginning. In 1845 a man by the name of Peter Cooper patented a product made with gelatin. Although he did patent it, the concept never did catch on with the public. In 1897, Pearle Wait, a carpenter in LeRoy, developed a cough remedy and a laxative tea using the gelatin. He stumbled onto a flavored dessert using the gelatin that appealed to his wife and she called it Jello. He tried to market his product but his lack of capital and experience resulted in a complete flop. In 1899 he sold his formula to another local fella for the amount of $450. This gentleman was most noted for proprietary medicines. It's unclear whether this gentleman simply lost focus in the Jello product or possibly got sidetracked with other interests but in 1899 possibly in a bad mood he sold the Jello name to a fella by the name of Sam Nico for $35.00. Sam experienced amazing success with his new venture. By 1902, after a successful sales campaign his sales soared to $250,000.00. A year or two later and he had topped the $1,000,000.00 mark and from there the sales simply soared to the corporation it is today.
Did you know that radio personality Jack Benny coined the little tune that was sung with the 5 letters J-E-L-L-O. Did you also realize starting in 1974, Bill Cosby became the spokesman for Jello and held that title for nearly 30 years. Did you realize there are over 20 different flavors of Jello? And did you realize there are roughly 36 flavors that were discontinued including celery, turnip and purple? Pretty interesting stuff, huh? You might also be happy to hear that although some people claim that Jello is made out of horse knee caps, that really isn't true.
Whoda Thunk there would be so much that you didn't know about that colorful wiggly and jiggly dessert!