Vegan Fruit Jellies & Valentine’s Day around the world

To all the chocolate haters (I know, I couldn’t believe these people really existed either!) and all the jelly-lovers, to all the valentine’s-lovers and all the haters: this one is for ALL of you. Here come four divine variations of vegan fruit jellies that can be ready in ten minutes. No matter if you’re into fruity-sweet or even sour gummy treats: there’s one for every taste.

Germany is famous for its gummy bears, I know. But since Valentine’s Day is almost here, I decided to make heart-shaped ones instead. And yes, of course they have to be pink and red!

Whether you like this day or not, I think investing some time in something homemade is always a good idea to express your love to someone (or even yourself #selflove ;-)). This comes right after actually spending time with them, of course. And the individual love language within each relationship plays a role here, too….But you get the idea. I mean is there any better way of expressing your love by giving something delicious that feels indulgent but actually is good for you? Exactly!

For those of you who do celebrate the day or those who are just interested in how the day is celebrated worldwide, I put together some facts and figures on how it’s celebrated in other countries for you below.

If you’re not into this day at all or just don’t care, don’t bother reading and go straight to the recipe (or to Saudi Arabia where the day is banned OR to Brazil, where they are just too busy celebrating carnival instead).

USA & Britain

Among all countries worldwide, Valentine’s Day is probably celebrated the most in the US. Americans use this extremely popular holiday to express love to dear ones. In the early days, it was all about red roses and chocolates (and later jewelry), usually given by men to their beloved ladies. Today the expression of gratitude and love doesn’t only include the spouse or sweetheart but also parents, friends or generally people close to them. So it’s not only about romantic love but more about platonic greeting cards, appreciation and friendship.

Germany

In Germany it’s mainly couples who celebrate their love relationships on Valentine’s Day. While more and more Valentine’s devotees have romantic dinners that day or give chocolates or flowers as gifts, there are also prosaic Valentine’s haters as well. They rant and rave against it and believe the day is an invention of the chocolate- and flower industry. But instead of simply ignoring the day, they decide to spend time and money on anti-valentine’s-parties, -cards and -gifts (seriously!). So basically they’d rather support the greeting card industry, I guess…

Saudi Arabia
In Saudi Arabia Valentine’s Day is banned entirely. They even threaten with imprisonment. This might not seem too surprising in a country that strictly separates men and women in public, like in schools or restaurants. It might sound absurd though, that even the color red is banned completely for that day. This means no one is allowed to wear anything red, nor dare restaurants decorate their tables with red roses or red candles. In other Arabic countries which are a little more liberal, like Egypt and Jordan, it is not only accepted more and more but is actually becoming a brisk business.

South Korea & Japan

In contrast to Saudi Arabia, in Japan gender segregation exists on Valentine’s Day – but only when it comes Valentine’s customs. On February 14th it’s only the ladies who give chocolates to any men close to them – boyfriends as well as male colleagues and friends. On the “White Day”, as they call March 14th, men return the favor by giving chocolates to the ladies who gave them presents one month before. In a similar manner as in Japan, Koreans celebrate February 14th as well as March 14th. Beyond that they set another date for those who don’t have particular romantic partners and therefore didn’t receive gifts on either of the previous dates. On April 14th or “Black Day”, as they call it, all the singles gather together to eat black bean noodles and cry over their love life, or lack of it.

Finland

In Finland Valentine’s Day is celebrated less as a romantic holiday between couples but more as a day of friendships. It’s basically a gift giving (or time spending) among people who are close to each other in any given way. To make things a little more exciting, gifts are often bestowed anonymously.

No matter how or if you celebrate Valentine’s Day at all, I think it’s always nice to show people you care about, how much you do – on any given day!

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Moving on to the homemade sweet treat…

The basic recipe for these gummy treats calls for some liquid, such as fruit juice/ purée or (nut) milk, mixed with agar agar and a sweetener like maple syrup.

Agar what? Agar agar, as it’s called in the west, is a plant-based gelling agent. It’s obtained from seaweed and serves really well as a substitute for gelatin of animal origin. It is often used in Asian countries, like in Japan, where it’s called Kanten and where gelatin is pretty unknown. This is why you can find it in Asian grocery stores. It is also sold in most health food stores today, where it might just be a little pricier, though. It’s also worth mentioning that it often is available in different forms: powder, flakes or threads. For this recipe you will need powdered agar agar.

Makes about 20-25 jellies of any flavor, depending on size

(1) Strawberry

  • ¼ cup strawberries* (frozen or fresh, see notes), I used frozen fruit since they weren’t in season
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tbsp agar agar
  • 1-2 tbsp maple syrup**
  • Optional: a dash of lemon juice

(2) Cranberry

  • ¼ cup cranberry juice (you could use any other kind of juice as well), I used 100% juice
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tbsp agar agar
  • 1-2 tbsp maple syrup**
  • Optional: a dash of lemon juice

(3) Cranberry almond milk (taste like sour jellies)

  • 1 inch vanilla pod
  • ¼ cup cranberry juice
  • ¼ cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp agar agar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup

(4) Vanilla almond milk (taste like rice pudding or yogurt jelly)

  • 1 inch vanilla pod
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp agar agar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup

You will also need:

Some kind of mold(s). I’m using silicon molds because it’s easy to pop the jellies out when they have set.

(1) Directions

  1. Purée the strawberries with the water, either by hand or with a blender/ food processor, until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve, cheese cloth or a clean kitchen towel to keep all seeds out. Then simply mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan. When the agar agar powder has dissolved completely, bring the mixture to a boil. Keep stirring and allow to bubble for 1-2 minutes until thickened.
  2. Pour into molds and let sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes until you can pop them out of the molds easily.
  3. But wait! Don’t just wash away what’s left in the blender. Simply add a cup of almond milk and some cinnamon and have yourself some delicious strawberry milk while waiting for the candy to set.

(2) Directions

  1. Simply mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan. When the agar agar powder has dissolved completely, bring the mixture to a boil. Keep stirring and allow to bubble for 1-2 minutes until thickened.
  2. Pour into molds and let sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes until you can pop them out of the molds easily.

(3) & (4) Directions

  1. Using a small sharp knife, split the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Mix together with all other ingredients thoroughly in a saucepan. When the agar agar powder has dissolved completely, bring the mixture to a boil. Keep stirring and allow to bubble for 1-2 minutes until thickened.
  2. Pour into molds and let sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes until you can pop them out of the molds easily

Notes:

*If using frozen strawberries let them thaw in the fridge overnight. Can’t wait that long? Simply heat them up in a sauce pan, but make sure to let the purée cool down completely before continuing.

**If you have a very sweet tooth, you might want to adjust the amount of your sweetener of choice.

Additional advice: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. They do set and store well at room temperature. But since these are made with fresh ingredients and don’t contain any nasty preservatives, you want to make sure that they stay fresh.

There you have it. These are basically the ones that I really liked after experimenting for a while and they are just so simple to make. You can continue experimenting with all sorts of different flavors. I’m definitely going to try some more variations, like mango or even coffee.

Looking for another way to use these lovely molds or just want some chocolate instead? Head over to my chocolate recipe then.

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