Irish Moss - a red seaweed - is consumed very differently to other known edible seaweeds, because of its natural texture and the very large amount of mucilage it contains. This mucilaginous quality is what gives Irish Moss its excellent culinary properties as well as its beneficial effects on the body.
Although modern cooking has found lots of innovative applications for Irish Moss, in recent history, its primary use was therapeutic, as a healing herb. Irish Moss would help speed recovery from debilitating illness, especially T. B. and pneumonia and it was often recommended by herbalists to help lubricate dry, irritated mucus membranes & skin.
Like Agar, it is frequently used as a vegan substitute for gelatin providing a similar consistency with the added benefit of being able to use it completely raw. Although it has traditionally been simmered and consumed as a liquid broth or to set puddings, modern-day recipes often make a raw blended gel which is then added to various foods and drinks as a nutritious thickening agent.
The strong aroma of ocean that comes out of the package will turn into a barely detectable flavour after soaking & rinsing; the colour too will lighten and if the little red stems are removed, you get a nice cream colour jelly that can be used for the most delicately coloured foods.
USING IRISH MOSS
Irish Moss can be used as a thickener using 2 different methods:
1. Simmer the seaweed in a liquid:
Rinse the dry Irish Moss thoroughly many times to remove any debris and lighten the flavour. Add one cup (or less if you require a soft set) of Irish Moss to two cups of the liquid to set and simmer slowly until most of the seaweed has dissolved (20-25 minutes). Remove any un-dissolved fragments or strain off solids through a sieve and pour into a mould to set. Irish Moss has many culinary applications whether you choose to simmer it or have it raw.
2. In its raw form, it can be used any time you want something smooth, thick or creamy without having to cook. The raw gel made out of the whole plant is used in many raw desserts, dips, and sauces:
IRISH MOSS RAW GEL
Ingredients (for roughly 1 cup of gel):
15g dried Irish Moss
1/2 cup water
- Rinse the Irish moss in cold water until all tiny bits of debris have been removed. Continue rinsing until the water runs clear. Allow the Irish moss to soak in cold water for 4-6 hours. (I prefer over night, rinsing it whenever I think about it)
- After the soaking process is complete, drain and give the Irish moss a really thorough rinse. Don’t worry about the ocean aroma, when rinsed thoroughly and pureed, it is practically odourless and tasteless.
- Cut the re-hydrated Irish Moss into bits and remove the little red stems and any hard calcified piece that hasn't softened. Puree 1 cup of Irish moss and about 1/4 cup of water in high-speed blender & process till well blended into a paste. If you have a Vitamix with the plunger, use it… it is a key to success. If you don’t have a plunger, you will have to stop the machine several times to scrape down the sides. You may need to add more water although the goal is to make the paste with the least amount of water.
- Rub some of the paste between your fingers; continue blending if you feel any lumps or grit, otherwise it may not set properly. The moss is ready when it has a creamy white colour and nearly double size and weight than its dry original state.
- Store the gel in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 weeks (although it may last way longer). You can also FREEZE it, which makes it very convenient to use, and you always have it on hand when needed. Simply pour the mixture into ice-cube trays, freeze, and store in an airtight bag or container.
In recipes, use 1-5 Tbsp of Irish moss gel to 1 cup of product. Quantity depends on the recipe you are making (other ingredients) and the thickness desired. You may need to try a few times to get the perfect ratio going for a given recipe. Look up our recipe section for examples that have worked for us.
As with most foods, especially raw products, the quality and source are important. Irish Moss grows naturally in different shades of purple, red & brown and it is available in many locations along the Atlantic and may be presented in different forms: powdered, flaked and whole. Our Irish Moss is harvested from the wild in Ireland and is of the best quality; it comes with centuries of traditional uses.
Commercially altered forms of the plant like some of the powdered Irish Moss, sand cured Irish Moss and carrageenan gum have been processed and have lost some of their goodness. There is controversy about ‘carrageenan’ which is the Gaelic word used to call the unaldurated plant and misleadingly, a few other things.