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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wine Gums from Scratch

Wine Gums are a candy that is popular in many parts of the world, one of which being the underground Tube (like a subway) in London vending machines. I remember the first pack I purchased, astounded by the fact that there were wine flavored gummies for sale. They were chewy, winey, and thoroughly awesome. I've had them a number of times since then, but they just aren't that easy to get in the states. So, why not try and make some!

The gummies--according to their ingredient list--are basically gelatin, sugar, artificial flavors/colors, and preservatives. Originally they were made with wine, but apparently no longer. Since I don't really have access to wine-flavor, I decided to go with the real thing--wine! The problem is what proportion of liquid to gelling agent is appropriate?
The Goog gave me some answers of what other people were trying, and right off the bat I knew there were going to be issues. First off, just using gelatin in the home kitchen will result in something largely similar to rubbery Jello, which is not the texture I am aiming for. Second, without some form of stabilizer or treatment, the product becoming 'weepy' is an issue. With those issues in mind, I did a few experiments.

Using just water and unflavored gelatin, I started with:
  • 1 packet of gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon water to 'soften' the gelatin
  • Top up to 1/8 cup in total with boiling water
  • Let the mixture set in a mold


The texture was very much like firmed Jello, just like I thought. And any direct contact with your hands made the gummies weep appreciably. This was obviously not the proportion.
Second try:
  • 2 packets unsweetened gelatin
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
After setting, this proportion was waaay too rubbery, and still had problems weeping. Third try:
  • 2 packets gelatin
  • 1/2 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/4 cup cold water (so the corn starch wouldn't clump)
  • Raised the temperature of the mixture to just below boiling
Being careful not to scorch, once this batch was set the weeping was better but still too rubbery. But I knew I was on the right track. So, for the fourth experiment I used:
  • 2 packets gelatin
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/2 cup cold water
This proved to be the closest to gummy texture that I found. Increasing the starch didn't lead to much or any improvement, and when thorough set the gummies had a pleasing texture without being overly rubbery. This would be an acceptable texture to begin the next round of experiments.

I did a number of sweetness and wine tests which I won't go over in agonizing detail (let's just say I went through *a lot* of gelatin), and it turns out a very simple proportion yields acceptable results: use half as much sugar by volume as liquid. So in this case 1/4 cup sugar to 1/2 cup wine got the final product sweet enough without being overly sweet. I suspect many will want to increase that amount a smidge (maybe 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon, for example), but I found it reasonable. So the recipe for a small, miniature batch of gummies is simply:
  • 1/2 cup fruity wine, such as merlot, syrah, or Riesling
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 packets unflavored gelatin
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon citric acid or acid blend
  • A tiny, tiny, tiny smidgen of a pinch of salt (no really, absolutely minuscule)

Mix in the cornstarch to wine first, and make sure it's smooth. Then slowly sprinkle the gelatin into the mixture while mixing, trying to eliminate as many lumps as possible. When the gelatin has been incorporated, mix in the rest of the ingredients.

On Low to Medium Low heat, gently bring the mixture to a simmer. Stir continuously so it does not scorch. When it has simmered for 30 seconds or so and looks like a thin syrup, remove from heat and pour into a mold.

The mold I used was an Ikea ice cube tray with a quick spritz of spray oil. Use a little oil, it will make getting them out much easier.


Cool on the counter for five minutes or so, then place in the fridge for an hour. Unmold the gummies and enjoy!

Thoughts

The quality of your gummy is absolutely, 100% based on the quality of wine that you use. That doesn't mean to imply that expensive wine will make better gummies, just keep in mind that the end product is a sweet confection and not savory.

Second, I think with a little more work the texture could be improved even more. I have a sneaking suspicious that 'real gummies' don't use cornstarch but instead temper the sugar to perhaps soft or hard ball (like when you make fudge, for example). I don't know this to be true, but it is a suspicioun of mine. More experiments to come, I guess :D

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Cheese A Day by Jeremy Pickett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at cheeseaday.blogspot.com.