Gelatin is so useful for a variety of restaurant purposes - panna cotta, foams, enriching broths, fruit or vegetable waters, gels… the list goes on. It’s also really healthy - a great source of protein and incredibly nourishing for joints, skin and aiding in digestion. True to the Vinland mission, Alex and I have honed a method for isolating and drying gelatin from local pig parts. It’s a pretty involved process, but the results have been great, plus it makes already divineee panna cotta about infinity times more special.
To make gelatin, it’s important to start with the gelatin-rich parts of an animal. Skin, trotters (feet), and tails are perfect. (Can you spy the nipple in my second photo!?) Ask your local butcher if they’re wiling to reserve these for you; they should be very affordable. To extract the gelatin, make a simple stock. Using a pressure cooker is great here - it speeds things up immensely, and maximizes what you’ll get out of the ingredients you have. Cover skin, trotters and tails with cold water and bring to a boil. Drain the water and cover again with fresh, cold water. This removed blood and scum, which helps the gelatin extracted to be as pure and clean as possible. Cover and secure the pressure cooker lid, and cook under maximum pressure for 4 hours.
Remove from heat and allow the pressure to drop in it’s own time. When it’s safe to remove the lid, do so and allow the gelatin to cool a bit before straining. Strain the gelatin through a fine chinoise and transfer to a pot. Reduce the gelatin by 30-50 percent, then allow to cool to room temperature and store under refrigeration overnight. In the morning, skim the lard off the surface. There will probably be a lot of beautifully rendered, clean lard - you should keep this, too - it will make killer pie crust or roasted potatoes. Just skim it off the surface with a clean spoon and store in the fridge. Now skim the thin layer of fatty gelatin off the top to reveal pure, jiggly gelatin below. Depending how firm it is already, you may want to reduce it some more. Now transfer the gelatin to loaf pans and re-refrigerate overnight.
Once the gelatin is fully set, turn the loaf pans, one at a time, out onto a cutting board. Slice the gelatin into sheets the way you’d slice bread. The thinner and more uniform the better - 3-5mm is about perfect. Lay the gelatin slices out on clean dehydrator sheets. DO NOT put them into a running dehydrator, even on low heat. Gelatin liquefies around 70 degrees and will melt through the mesh into a useless puddle. Instead, store the trays in an unplugged dehydrator until they’re COMPLETELY dry. Set up a fan blowing into the dehydrator if you’re feeling impatient - this phase can take several days. Once dry the gelatin will keep indefinitely in an airtight container and can be used for a million things. To use it, weigh out the amount of gelatin you need and bloom in cold water for 10-15 minutes. Wring out your hard-earned gelatin and continue as usual.