|The word agar comes from the Malay word "agar-agar" meaning jelly. Agar Agar, a vegetarians gelatin. Also known by its Japanese name Kanten, Agar is derived from Gracilaria (Gelidium species) a bright red sea vegetable with the botanical name of Gleidium
purpurascens. Agar due to its high gelling properties is considered the queen of gelling agents.
An excellent gelling agent and thickener in many processed foods such as doughnuts, marmalade & jam, jelly candy, cheese, puddings, gelatin fruit desserts, meat products, bakery fillings and icings, dry and canned soups and ice cream.
Agar is a polysaccharide found in the cell walls of some red algae and is unusual in containing sulfated galactose monomers (gelling agents). It requires nothing but extraction from red algae and purification to become agar. Agar added to liquids simply gels them into a convenient solid form. It is used as a gelatin substitute for Jell-O® like desserts. Agar will form gels at approximately 88F(35C) but once formed does not melt below 136F(85C).
Natural agar agar is unflavored producing a firm, clear jelly and is rich in iodine and trace minerals and has mildly laxative properties. It is produced by a traditional method of cooking and pressing the sea vegetables and then naturally freeze-drying the residue to form bars which are then powdered for easier packageing and transport.
Agar agar has stronger setting properties and, unlike gelatin which requires refrigeration to set, it will set at room temperature after about an hour - although it is advisable to store dishes gelled with agar agar in the fridge as it is a high protein food.
Powdered agar can be substituted for the same quantity of unflavored gelatin in recipes. For a firm jelly you require approximately 2 teaspoons of powder per 1 pint ( 600ml) of liquid. Agar agar should be soaked in the liquid first for 10-15 minutes, then gently brought to a boil and simmered while stirring until it dissolves completely, this will take about 5 minutes. Unlike gelatin, agar agar can be boiled and can even be re-melted if necessary. If you are unsure as to the setting ability of your gel, test a small amount on a cold saucer - it should set in 20-30 seconds, if not you may need more agar agar, if too firm - add some more liquid.