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From the archives: this article originally appeared online in 2013.
Call them electrolyte gels, endurance gels, sports gels, nutritional gels, carbohydrate gels, or “Mommy’s homemade yummy gummies” (thanks, Nick!)—whatever the eponym, these pop-able fruit gels provide quick carbohydrates for exercise endurance and recovery.
While gel blocks are commonly used in endurance sports, they are a great mini pick-up for any kind of fitness endeavor. When I bothered to look at the ingredients on the label one day (while recovering from price shock), I knew I could recreate them (I can be cocky that way).
And so I did! The blocks remain gelled at room temperature, and since they rely on natural fruit pectin, not gelatin, they are 100% vegan, too. You can find the fruit pectin in supermarkets or hardware stores where canning products are shelved.
MAKES 45 SQUARES
- 1 cup light-colored natural cane sugar or granulated sugar
- 1 cup organic 100% fruit juice or fruit nectar, pulp-free (e.g., apple, cherry, mango, or berry)
- 1 3-ounce pouch liquid fruit pectin
- 1/4 cup honey, agave nectar, or DIY Glucose Syrup (see below)
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1. Lightly spray a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a medium saucepan, whisk the sugar, fruit juice, pectin, honey, and salt until thoroughly blended.
3. Bring mixture to a full boil over medium-high heat, whisking continuously. Reduce heat to medium and continue whisking for 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat and whisk in the lemon juice. Pour into the prepared pan.
4. Loosely cover the pan with a clean dish towel and let stand at least 12 hours until firm (do not refrigerate).
5. Invert the pan on a cutting board to release the gel. Using a sharp knife, cut into 1-inch squares.
- Be sure to whisk constantly while boiling the fruit juice- pectin mixture or the pectin may form clumps.
These will remain gelled at room temperature so simply wrap in plastic wrap or place in a small zipper-top plastic bag when heading out for an adventure.
- Room Temperature: 1 week.
- Refrigerator: up to one month.
- Serving size: 5 squares
- Calories: 130
- Fat: 0 g, (Saturated 0 g)
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 67 mg
- Carbs: 33.7 g (Fiber 0.5 g, Sugars 32.9 g)
- Protein: 0.1 g
- Pomegranate Margarita Gels: Prepare as directed using cranberry-pomegranate juice as the fruit juice and 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice in place of the lemon juice.
- Spirulina Gels: Add 2 teaspoons spirulina powder along with the lemon juice.
- Super Citrus Gels: Prepare as directed using 1/2 cup pulp-free orange juice and 1/2 cup fresh lemon or lime juice.
- Mango Mojo Gels: Prepare as directed using mango nectar as the fruit juice and 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice in place of the lemon juice.
- Mocha-Motion Gels: Prepare as directed using apple juice as the fruit juice and adding 1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder and 1 tablespoon unsweetened, natural cocoa powder to the mixture before heating.
- Bombastic Berry Gells: Prepare as directed using mixed berry juice as the fruit juice.
DIY GLUCOSE SYRUP
This multipurpose syrup can be used in place of any other syrup, but it also has the chemical structure that is needed to bind particular bars, especially those lacking other binders; honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup will not work in its place (if you have ever had a pan of homemade energy bars or granola bars result in crumbles, you know what I mean). The only (natural) alternatives are organic corn syrup and brown rice syrup. You should note that you will need to buy one piece of special equipment before you boil your first batch: a candy thermometer. Did you just start to panic? Please don’t! The candy thermometer simply clips to the pan and insures that your efforts turn out perfectly. They are inexpensive, too, and available at any kitchen supply store; I’ve even seen them at well-stocked grocery stores. After just one batch, you’ll have more than paid for the expense of the thermometer with your savings.
MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPS
- 1 cup water
- 2 2/3 cups organic, granulated, light-colored natural cane sugar (evaporated cane juice)
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar or fresh lemon juice
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Candy thermometer that can clip to the side of the pan
- Stainless steel or silicone spoon (do not use a wooden spoon)
- Pastry Brush
- Clean glass jars with lids (recycled jars are fine)
1. Set a small dish of water and the pastry brush directly beside the stove.
2. Combine the water, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in a medium, heavy-bottom saucepan and stir with the stainless steel or silicone spoon until blended. Clip the candy thermometer to the side of the pan and set the pan over high heat. Do not stir the sugar after this point.
3. As the sugar comes to a boil, dip the pastry brush in the dish of water and brush down the sides of the pan to dissolve any sugar crystals that could cause the syrup to re- crystallize.
4. Bring the mixture to a full boil; you will no longer need to brush the sides of the pan. Continue boiling until the syrup just barely reaches a temperature of 240°F (it is preferable to be a few degrees under than a few degrees over). Immediately turn off the heat, remove the candy thermometer, and carefully move the pan to a cool spot on the stove or a cooling rack. Allow the syrup to sit undisturbed until it has cooled completely, at least an hour.
5. Carefully pour the cooled syrup into jars, seal with the lids, and store in the cupboard.
- To make the cooled syrup easier to pour, remove the metal lid from the jar and then place in a saucepan of simmering water to warm the syrup until pourable (about 5 to 6 minutes). Alternatively, microwave the opened jar of syrup on High in 30-second intervals until pourable.
- This recipe can be doubled.
- This can be kept at room temperature for up to three months.