It began with a trip overseas. Artist Susan Hood is a believer in the ability of travel to expand one’s horizons.
In November 2018 she noticed a Hong Kong vendor selling what appeared to be flower blossoms beneath domes of plastic. Not knowing Cantonese or Mandarin, she questioned the woman by pointing to them and pantomiming eating. The woman nodded – twice - after Hood repeated her actions in disbelief.
After buying one, Hood was surprised to discover that the exquisitely detailed blossom was made of gelatin.
Once back home in Yarmouth, she began researching, learning and practising the unusual culinary artform.
She buys her gelatin from a professional food supplier but has been experimenting with the ingredient from other sources.
“I’m the type of person who has something and then takes it to my own level,” she said.
She’s experimented with Knox gelatin sold in most stores, and also stevia. She found that both “work perfectly.”
She can now make gelatin for people who are diabetic. For vegetarians, she uses agar, which is gelatin made from algae.
She also started to see what tools she could source locally to create the flowers.
She found some at Bulk Barn, Canadian Tire, Manda & Evelyn’s store, and the syringes she needed at a local veterinarian.
A simplified description of the flower-making process starts with the making of “blanks” a day or two before. In the bottom part of a hand-sized plastic dome that later fits with the top half, she makes gelatin tinted with food dye and refrigerates them.
In preparation for flower-making, she cuts the end off the pointed tips of the needles so they can draw up, then inject the gelatin as required. She sets a coloured blank in its dome in very hot water for about 20 minutes, long enough to liquefy it.
Hood then attaches a tiny spade-shaped tool to the needle, sucks up some coloured gelatin and takes another blank, working from upside-down, slowly and carefully injecting food colouring onto the tool as she inserts it.
It’s a very slow, careful process that results in the liquified gelatin spreading out a bit in the cooler gelatin to form one petal. She repeats the process to form each petal. The flowers are kept in the moulds until they are sold.
She’s keen to teach others how to make gelatin art flowers now.
“The thing is, it looks really complicated but it’s not. Anyone can do it,” she said.
She says, as a former schoolteacher, she wants everyone to enjoy the experience of creating them.
Hood takes names and when she has three or four people, she schedules a class (each is about three hours). Each participant leaves with three desserts.
“I’ve never had any failures. They’re perfect for bridal showers, weddings, special birthdays, anniversaries, any special occasion,” she said.
She adds that she’s been experimenting with colours and what she loves about having the students come is their creativity.
One student said she wanted to make a poppy. Hood immediately started thinking about how it could be done. Because she’s made poppies in stained glass before, she knows what the petals and centre looks like. She and the student made poppies for the first time. Hood’s now planning on making some for Remembrance Day to present to veterans.
A committee member with Communities in Bloom has asked her to provide classes for September’s national conference, which will be hosted by Yarmouth.
Hood is selling her gelatin flowers at the Yarmouth Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings and the Argyle Market on Thursdays. It’s mostly for exposure, to network and sign folks up for her classes, she says. The future is full of possibilities.
She had one man approach her to arrange for a birthday party class making the flowers.
For more info
Cost for the gelatin flower class is $25. Contact Hood by phone: 902-748-1213