Japanese Mizoguchi Snow-Dried Kanten
Mitoku Kanten or Agar Agar is a traditional gelatin made in the winter involving a very long procedure from several different varieties of red seaweed. Light and refreshingly cool, natural "jell-o" made with fruit, juice and kanten are especially popular in summer. In any season Kanten can be used with vegetables and stock to make molded aspics. It is used in Japan as an indispensable aid for beauty and health, as it is rich in calcium and iron and loaded with natural iodine!
Uses: Kanten comes prepackaged in bars and flakes. Even without refrigeration, kanten sets quickly as it cools, and seals in the natural flavor and sweetness of any fruits and vegetables used. Light and refreshingly cool, kanten dishes are especially popular in the summer. In any season, kanten can be used with vegetables and stock to make molded aspics; as a substitute for pectin in jams, jellies, and cranberry sauce; and in desserts such as puddings and pie fillings.
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Cooking with Kanten
Naturally made snow-dried kanten is available in bars and flakes in most natural foods stores. The Mizoguchi family's kanten is sold in the United States under the Emerald Cove, Erewhon, Mitoku Macrobiotic, Sound Sea Vegetables, and Tree of Life labels. A powdered variety is often sold in Oriental foods stores, but this type is usually made by a chemical process that is used in large factories. Read labels carefully and look for the words "snow-dried."
According to Peter and Montse Bradford, authors of Cooking With Sea Vegetables, the jelling ability of natural kanten varies according to the acidity or alkalinity of the food with which it is used. Acidic foods may require more kanten than alkaline foods do. Testing the recipe is recommended by taking a spoonful of the heated mixture and allowing it to rapidly set on a cool surface. If the mixture does not set in a few minutes, add a little more kanten to the pot and simmer a few more minutes.
Uses: To use kanten bars, tear them into several pieces and soak them in water for thirty to sixty minutes. Remove the kanten, squeeze out any excess water, and place in a saucepan along with the liquid called for in the recipe. The liquid should be cold or at room temperature. Bring to a simmer over medium heat without stirring. Once the liquid begins to simmer, stir occasionally until the kanten dissolves (about two to three minutes).
Prepackaged flakes need not be soaked. Simply sprinkle the measured amount over the liquid before heating and proceed as instructed for kanten bars. In any recipe, flakes can be substituted for bars and vice versa. The jelling strength of one bar of kanten is equal to two slightly rounded tablespoons of flakes.
Kanten makes an especially good summer dessert since it is light, cooling, and requires little time and heat to prepare.
4 cups juice (apple, apple-strawberry, or apple-raspberry)
Pinch Masu 100% Sea Water Salt
6 tablespoons Mitoku Kanten Flakes
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups fresh berries
Click here to enlarge.
Pour juice into a saucepan and add salt. Sprinkle kanten over juice and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Bring juice to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Simmer 3 minutes, then remove from heat. Add lemon peel and juice. Pour hot juice over fresh whole or sliced berries in a casserole dish or mold. Refrigerate or set in a cool place, uncovered. The kanten will be firm in 1-2 hours. (If you want kanten to set more quickly, place mixture in shallow individual serving bowls and refrigerate.)
Served chilled, Apple-Sesame Custard is a refreshing and satisfying summer dessert.
6 cups apple juice
1 cup Mitoku Kanten Flakes
3 tablespoons finely grated lemon peel
Pinch Masu 100% Sea Water Salt
5 tablespoons sesame tahini
2 teaspoons vanilla
Place apple juice, kanten flakes, lemon peel, and salt in a medium saucepan, and let soak for 10-15 minutes. Bring juice mixture to a boil, lower heat, and simmer 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly until kanten flakes have completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Place tahini in a small bowl. Gradually add 1/3 cup of hot juice, stirring after each addition. When tahini reaches a thin, creamy consistency, add it to the pot along with vanilla. Stir.
Rinse a shallow bowl or casserole dish in water, then pour in the hot liquid. Leave to cool until firm. Place mixture in a blender and purée until smooth. Return to serving bowl, chill, and serve either on its own or as a topping for other desserts.
Recipe from Peter and Montse Bradford, authors of Cooking With Sea Vegetables.