Jellan Gum: A Culinary Marvel and Versatile Stabilizer
Function: Jellan gum is a distinctive gelling molecule utilized in molecular gastronomy to produce tight gels with characteristic shapes. It is derived from the fermentation of green algae, particularly Elodea Canadensis.
Origin: The fermentation of Elodea Canadensis green algae by the Sphingomonas elodea bacterium produces jellan gum. Native to North America, this algae is now cultivated across almost all continents. Discovered in the 1970s, jellan gum resulted from the natural fermentation of Sphingomonas elodeate cultures, precipitating in alcohol after fermentation, as it does not interact with ethanol.
Jellan gum is a water-soluble gelling molecule with distinctive properties. It can be categorized into two types based on their chemical structures: high acyl and low acyl. These types are defined by the acidic molecular groups they contain. High acyl jellan gum forms elastic and flexible gels, while low acyl jellan gum is used in creating strong gels that are brittle and fragile. By blending these two types in different ratios, specific properties required in various applications can be achieved.
Jellan gum exhibits its gelling effect even at low concentrations, around 0.1%, in water-based solutions. The dissolution and gelling temperatures of jellan gum vary between 85°C – 95°C and 10°C – 80°C, depending on the type of gum used. Jellan gum-based gels are not thermoreversible, meaning they do not change shape with high heat. The high acyl type can be heated up to 80°C without losing its shape, while the low acyl type can withstand even higher temperatures. These gels maintain stability across a wide pH range.
In the food industry, jellan gum is predominantly used as a preventative agent against sedimentation, stabilizer, thickener, and shaping agent. When used in minimal amounts in liquids, it serves as a preventative agent against sedimentation, mildly enhancing viscosity. This property makes it a crucial molecule in ensuring even distribution in beverages like chocolate milk, preventing calcium or fibers from settling. Jellan gum does not alter the taste of the added dishes and enhances the heat resistance of processed foods during transportation and storage.
Jellan gum finds its way into various processed foods, including baked goods, sugary pastry creams, jams, puddings, sauces, and pre-prepared foods for microwave heating. It can replace starch in some processed foods. Additionally, its water-retention property ensures the edges of pies with jellan gum fillings remain dry.
Especially popular in Southeast Asia, jellan gum is used in the production of gelatinous beverages. In the late 1990s, Clearly Canadian Beverage Corporation marketed a beverage named Orbitz in North America, containing suspended, colored flavor orbs in a clear liquid, made using jellan gum.
Beyond the culinary realm, jellan gum's anti-flow and smoothing properties make it valuable in various cosmetic and hygiene products. It is used as an anti-sedimentation and stabilizing agent in shampoos and hair conditioners and prevents oil separation in sunscreens.
In medical products, jellan gum aids in easing tablet swallowing and controlling the release rate of substances in the body. It also supports the cultivation of heat-loving microorganism cultures.
Creative Culinary Uses:
As a gelling molecule, jellan gum finds application in a broad range of recipes requiring gelling. To activate its properties, jellan gum powder should be melted in a preferred liquid through heating and stirring. Gelling occurs during the cooling phase, and some mixtures may need refrigeration to complete the gelling process. Jellan gum gels can be easily shaped, making it suitable for recipes involving broth, brewing, and fruit juice-based concoctions.
In summary, jellan gum stands as a versatile ingredient, seamlessly integrating into culinary practices and offering a myriad of possibilities in the world of food and beyond.