Sometimes the best family traditions are the ones that happen by accident.
Several years ago, a friend invited us to their Super Bowl Party…and their First Annual Homemade Gummy Competition.
Apparently, one of the other families had been making homemade gummies to share at their Bible study group each week. Basically, this competition was a thinly veiled excuse to get them to make more to share!
I had never made homemade gummies before, but I understood the concept of how to make them. And I miiight be a tiny bit competitive with stuff this like. However, there was one BIG problem.
Most homemade gummy recipes used a popular brand-name, flavored gelatin mix…loaded with processed sugar, artificial colors, and artificial flavors.
I wanted to participate, but my conscience was convicting me.
Given my focus on eating real, whole foods, with as few artificial ingredients as possible, there was no way that I could comfortably use those ingredients in my own recipe.
(Don’t get me wrong, I knew that I was totally going to EAT them at the Super Bowl Party…and I did…but I just didn’t feel comfortable using those ingredients to make them myself.)
Luckily, I have become the queen of substituting, modifying, tweaking, and downright transforming any recipe to make it as nutritious as possible. While still being tasty, of course!
Benefits of Homemade Gummies
While it might seem like the the biggest benefit of making Homemade Gummies is simply that you get to control the ingredients, there’s actually one benefit that’s even bigger.
And it’s a benefit that many Mamas all too often neglect or downplay in their everyday lives…and turn out to regret it later in life!
The opportunity to get creative
One of my missions at Mommy Plus More is to inspire YOU to get your creative juices flowing, even among the everyday stress and tedium of Mama-Life.
(Let’s get realistic: in spite of the everyday stress and tedium of Mama-Life.)
And what gets more “everyday” than cooking?
There are so many opportunities to play around with different flavors, ingredients, shapes, and “extra touches” when making Homemade Gummies. You can really stretch your creative muscles!
And unlike cooking dinner, everybody’s going to LOVE your creations when you’re making Homemade Gummies.
Allowing yourself a creative outlet is not only healthy for you, it’s also the best example that you could set for your kids…especially if you are able to let them be involved, too.
Now on to the other major benefits: sourcing ingredients you and your family can live with!
Even though natural sugar still acts like sugar in your body, there still seems to be some benefit to switching from processed sugars to more natural sugars.
(And that’s not even counting the increased price tag, which may force you to start eating less sugar…)
So for my gummies, I choose to sweeten them with the following natural sugar options:
- Fruit Puree: This is the ideal option, as it doesn’t even count it as a source of sugar IMO. That’s because it’s actually a whole food, even after it’s been pureed. However, it doesn’t work in every type of gummy flavor (umm, what fruit makes dulce de leche??), and can make the texture a little grainy.
- Fruit Juice: This is my second, but most-used option. I often use it as the base liquid for my gummies instead of water. And although the USDA counts 100% fruit juice as a serving a fruit…I don’t. Juice has been stripped of all the solid portions of the fruit, so it still acts like pure sugar in your body. Even if it DOES arguably have an increased number of nutrients compared to other sugars that have been even more highly processed.
- Maple Syrup: This is a great option for when I don’t want to use fruit at all, but still need a sweetener. Actually, this is my solution to the decadent Dulce de Leche “problem”, which uses a milk base rather than fruit juice (recipe coming).
- Honey: Honey has a pretty strong flavor all its own, and can often overpower the other flavors I’m trying to create in my homemade gummies. So I usually only use it for Homemade Elderberry Gummies (recipe coming) in the winter to help support my family’s immune system…because elderberries by themselves actually don’t taste that great.
Gelatin is the essential ingredient when making Homemade Gummies.
It’s almost like magic. You start with a liquid, add the powdered gelatin, and voilà! You have a squishy, yet solid, treat.
It’s made from boiling animal bones and cartilage, usually from cows or pigs. If that sounds gross to you, just remember that gelatin is also one of the things that makes traditionally cooked chicken broth soooo nutritious and beneficial. Gelatin can be really good for you!
However, like most things, I genuinely believe that the finished product is only as nutritious as the animals who made it. And unfortunately, most of the gelatin that is available in grocery stores (including our famous name-brand favorite) most likely comes from feed-lot animals.
If you’ve ever researched the issue, then you know that feed-lot animals live in crowded conditions, are pumped full of antibiotics (to avoid the rampant illness that inevitably comes with crowded conditions), fed primarily corn (which is not the only thing they should be eating), and aren’t given opportunities to move around freely and graze on pasture.
Unhealthy animals = Less nutritious food
Luckily, there are better options out there, like grass-fed/pasture-raised animals. The gelatin (and meat products, for that matter) made from these healthier animals should be much more nutritious. As would be expected, it is also a bit more expensive…but if you stop comparing ounces and start comparing nutrients, it’s well worth the price.
That being said…sometimes I run out of grass-fed gelatin and have to run to the store to get whatever they have. Usually because I am trying to make Too. Many. Gummies.
(Just kidding. There’s no such thing as too many gummies.)
Here’s the two primary types of gelatin that I use:
- Grass-Fed/Pasture-Raised Gelatin: Always my first choice. Check prices for different brands on Amazon, because you might be able to find less expensive one that is still good quality, but this is a brand that I have personally used.
- Knox Brand Unflavored Gelatin: Pretty sure Knox doesn’t have the same high standards for their gelatin sources…but it’s often very easy to find at the grocery story or your local Wal-mart. Plus, you can buy it in much smaller quantities.
Sourcing Artificial Colors and Flavors
Just kidding…you know I try to avoid these, which is why I like making Homemade Gummies!
Instead of using artificial colors and flavors, I use the naturally occuring colors and flavors from other, more natural ingredients.
For example, grape juice is purple…so when I use grape juice as my sweetener, I end up making purple, grape flavored Gummies.
Pretty straight forward, actually.
How long do Homemade Gummies last?
Since you are using natural ingredients, without any preservatives, your Homemade Gummies will need to be stored in the refrigerator.
That being said, it’s totally okay to leave them out for hours at a time while you are nibbling on them during the Super Bowl.
But if you leave them at room temperature for, say, several days…then you’re going to end up with a lot of nasty, moldy Gummies. And very disappointed kids.
So store them in the fridge between snacking sessions, and your Homemade Gummies should last you at least a week, possibly longer.
Of course, always use your own good judgement.
How to Make Homemade Gummies
Homemade Gummies are relatively easy to make, and don’t have to take a lot of hands-on time.
Or they could take a lot of time…if you want to get fancy with them.
I’m including the basic framework recipe for Homemade Gummies at the bottom of this post.(Jump to Homemade Gummies Framework Recipe)
But the idea is this:
- Heat your base liquid/fruit/sugar until just simmering.
- Add gelatin.
- Mix well.
- Pour in a pan or mold.
- Wait until they solidify.
- Eat them!
The total hands-on “cooking” time is really only 5-10 minutes. Totally doable, even with small kids!
But the fun (and creative!)part comes with choosing your flavor combos, molds, and “up-leveling” your Homemade Gummies with fun extras.
How to choose a mold for Homemade Gummies
I know it’s tempting, but take my advice…skip the itty bitty gummy bear molds.
Yes, they’re nostalgic…but they are also a Pain. In. The. Butt.
If you do decide to try a gummy bear mold despite my warning, make sure that your Homemade Gummy recipe firms up nice and solid. If it’s the least bit jiggly (or if you used a fruit puree) then you will be getting little arms, legs, ears, and even noses stuck in those tiny crevices.
And frankly, they’re so small that you can’t even fit very much in your mold. So you’re either going to need to buy several gummy bear molds, OR use additional mold options.
Here’s the two best mold options that I’ve found:
- Anything silicon: Doesn’t matter if it says it’s a chocolate mold, a soap mold, an ice cube tray, or anything in between…if it’s made of flexible, food-grade silicon then it should work. Ideally you want to choose molds that limit the number of “nooks & crannies”, because they will make it hard to get a clean release of your Homemade Gummy. Smooth surfaces work best. These are similar to some of the favorites that I use: Sea Shells, Hearts, Sticks, and a Variety pack (and it even includes one dreaded gummy bear mold to experiment with…)
- Cake pan: Who needs cutesy shapes? The fastest way to make Homemade Gummies is to pour your hot, liquid mix into a very lightly greased cake pan (honestly, the greasing could even be optional). When it’s firm, you can slice it up into whatever sized squares you desire. Even when I want to use pretty silicone molds, I’ll end up pouring the leftovers into a square cake pan to make my life easier. And since I often make multiple flavors at one time, I’ll each leftover flavor until we end up with a pretty, tasty, rainbow flavored bonus gummy when we’re finished!
How to Up-Level your Homemade Gummies
There’s so much more you can do to make your Homemade Gummies extra special (and waaaay better than the boring store-bought version).
Here’s a few ideas I’ve tried in the past:
- Chocolate Chips: Some fruit gummies naturally go well with chocolate (as do chocolate gummies, for that matter…). Simply drop a chocolate chip into each Gummy mold before they solidify, or sprinkle some on top before the gummies solidify.
- Chocolate Coating: Melt those chocolate chips, add a little bit of coconut oil to make them softer, and drizzle it over your finished Homemade Gummies. Make sure that the chocolate is not too hot, and that the Gummies are as cold as possible, because the heat from the chocolate sauce will cause the Gummies to melt a little bit.
- “Sour Patch” version: My hubby has a sour tooth (is that a thing?), so he loves to dip his Homemade Gummies in pure citric acid. If you’re not that into sour, then I recommend mixing the citric acid with some granulated sugar, too. NOTE: Do not dip gummies in citric acid until they’re ready to eat, because it will pull water out of your Gummies (due to the power of osmosis), and make them much less appealing to eat. Kinda like salt on slugs. #CoolScienceExperiementThough
- Cherry Center: Add a piece of fresh or frozen fruit to the center of your Homemade Gummies immediately after pouring them into their molds, before they’ve had a chance to set. A piece of cherry is a fun surprise inside a Tart Cherry Gummy…especially when drizzled with chocolate afterwards! (recipe coming)
- Layered Gummies: Some of my favorite gummies are “Fruit & Cream” style. They remind me of the Peaches & Cream Gummies I used to buy from the gas station on road trips as a kid. Simply make a layer of one flavor, let it set, then pour another flavor on top to fill the mold. This is also the technique I used to create a delicious PB&J gummy! (recipe coming)
Homemade Gummy Flavor Ideas
Now this is the REALLY fun part!! The sky’s the limit! I think about this all year long, trying to imagine new flavor combinations, and how I will create them using natural ingredients. So do my kids…they are always giving me suggestions for flavors they want to try, too.
Here are some flavors I’ve successfully made in the past:
- Tart Cherry
- Dulce de Leche
- Chocolate (I even used this fun chocolate bar mold, which can also double to make a real bar of homemade chocolate!)
- “Creamsicle” (aka Fruit & Cream layers)
- Peanut Butter
- PB & J
- Chocolate Covered Cherry
- Strawberry, Raspberry, or Mango puree (Mango was a surprise fav!)
- Chicken broth (okay, not gonna win any awards for this flavor…but it’s a really nutritious and less messy finger food for babies and toddlers)
And just to show you a “behind-the-scenes” so that you know I’m not perfect in every recipe that I develop…here’s some ideas that I’ve tried before, but still have room for improvement:
- Hot Wing: It was literally like drinking hot sauce…because that’s all I used to make it with…
- Pumpkin Pie: It has potential, but my first try was grainy and a little bitter from too much seasoning.
- Lemon/Lime: I used straight up Lemon and Lime juice, with zero sweetener. My husband liked it (even added citric acid!), but nobody else did. In fact, I think it might be the reason why I lost the First Annual Homemade Gummie Competition. (Just thinking about this makes my teeth feel soft…) It would be much better to redo this as a sweetened Lemonade or Limeade version.
And because I always have more ideas than time to try them, here are my ideas for the future:
- Piña Colada
- Chai Latte
- Banana Cream Pie
CAUTION: Do not use fresh pineapple or fresh papaya, because they both contain a naturally occurring enzyme called bromelain, which breaks down protein. And gelatin is definitely a protein. Cooked pineapple/papaya should be fine to use, because heat destroys the enzyme.
(SIDE NOTE: The taste buds on your tongue are also made up of protein. That is why some people end up with a weird taste in their mouth for approximately 24-hours after eating raw pineapple…it literally digests the taste buds on their tongues.
Don’t worry though, the taste buds grow back relatively quickly! So no permanent damage expected. It’s not fair that it doesn’t seem to happen to everyone though…
END SIDE NOTE)
I’ve had so much fun playing with my homemade gummy recipe over the years. Even though there’s no longer a “formal” competition, I still look forward to our family’s “gummy exhibition” tradition.
Basically, that’s a fancy term for me and my kids having too much fun making waaaay too many gummies.
(Because I’m horrible at narrowing down the flavor choices, and just want to make them all.)
It’s rather addicting when the creative juices start flowing and all the new flavor ideas start surfacing in my mind. It’s soooo hard to choose!!
Last year I created the Peanut Butter Gummies, and couldn’t resist layering them with Grape to create the PB&J gummy as well. This year, I’m thinking about trying the Piña Colada flavor, which would involve developing a pineapple AND a coconut flavor, of course…
You can see how quickly this escalates for me.
In any case, it’s fun for me and my family. Everybody pitches in to help, we get some quality family time, and (most importantly) we’re making positive memories with our kids.
And, of course, everybody pitches in to eat.
Bonus? We always have a ton of gummies for ourselves, with plenty leftover to share with friends and neighbors.
It’s the best kind of family tradition, in my opinion.
Leave a comment: Which flavored gummy sounds yummiest to you? What creative ideas can you come up with?
Homemade Gummy Recipe Framework
- Silicone Mold (optional, or any pan with sides, like a cake pan)
- 2+ Quart Pot
- Stick Blender (optional, but guarantees a non-clumpy gummie)
- 2 cups Liquid Ideas: fruit juice concentrate, milk, fruit puree, etc
- 4 Tbsp Gelatin
- Fun extras! pieces of fruit, chocolate, citric acid, etc
- Heat your liquid base until steam is starting to rise. Reduce heat before it boils.
- Sprinkle 4 Tbsp of Gelatin Powder over the top of the liquid, then wait a moment to let it "bloom" (it will gradually absorb some of the liquid without being mixed).
- Turn off the stove. Carefully use the stick blender* (or whisk) to thoroughly mix the gelatin into the liquid.
- Pour the liquid mixture into a cute silicone mold or cake pan. Wait until the gummies have solidified (you can speed up the process by placing the molds in the refrigerator or freezer until gelled).
- Once gummies are firm, remove them from molds (if using a cake pan, cut into desired shape before removing).
- Eat and enjoy! Store leftovers in the refrigerator.