"Gelatine and its Uses"

Useful Recipes For Every Home

Compiled for the benefit of Warwickians and others by Anthony James Leahy

Printers: A Tomes Ltd, Leamington Spa circa 1930 (Centre Nelson's own  booklet) & Spennell Press Warwick (Right International Stores booklet) faded from original blue colour

Contents of both booklets essentially the same




      Since George Nelson, in 1837, invented the process by which Culinary and edible Gelatine is produced, many valuable discoveries have been made in relation to the dietic value of this wonderful product.


     Modern research has also provided a considerable fund of knowledge which should prove of inestimable benefit to present and future generation.


     An eminent American dietic expert says: "Gelatine has not yet found its place as a food. A better knowledge of it will greatly increase the use of it. It is not difficult to digest, and does not throw the nutritional balance out of order."


     It has long been the custom to feed Gelatine to sick persons, and the sick persons would be better off still if they "had twice as much gelatine as they get."


     "Gelatine is probably the greatest assimilative agent known, being able to save from distruction about half its weight of protein."


     "It is easily digested in the stomach and is instrumental in assisting to eliminate excess stomach acids."


     Gelatine is a great aid in the digestion and absorption of other foods especially in the case of Milk and Foods containing a high degree of fat or starch."


     The great importance of Gelatine in modern dietics is now being appreciated by the British Medical Profession.


     There are many reasons why this protein should be added to foodstuffs.


     Probably the most important is that when used in the form of jellies, or when applied to hot or cold soups, sweet confections, etc, it raises three preparations from the desserts to the nutritious food class.


     Gelatine has the property of improving the digestibility of difficult foods, and this is one of the reasons why it is added to Ice Cream, Invalid and Baby Milk preparations.


     When milk enters the stomach it frequently happens that gastric juices cause thick curds to separate. The fats of the milk are also carried down with the curds and make them tough and insoluble.


     These heavy curds are extremely difficult to digest, and in many cases they pass unchanged into the intestines.


     The addition of Gelatine to the food or milk will prevent this curdling, or at least will control it to such an extent that the curds are light and easy to assimilate.


     Doctors nowadays advocate the addition of a trace of pure Gelatine to Infants' Milk.


     When a small portions of Gelatine is added to the Infants' Milk, it has been discovered as a result of careful tests that fully 20 per cent. more of the milk is digested by the baby than in cases where no gelatine is used.


     Foods of the future will all contain Gelatine, as modern conditions of life demand a diet which is easy to digest and gives the highest results with a minimum waste.










GELATINE, which is a pure form of glue, is largely used for culinary purposes, and consequently in its preparation the raw materials require to be selected with great attention to purity, and the manufacture conducted with the most scrupulous care and cleanliness.

Gelatine is produced from white bones or hide pieces, that derivable from the former being mainly used in the stock for soups, etc., and as prepared gelatine, calves' foot jelly, and patent isinglass.

Bone Gelatine.

The preparation of bone gelatine depends on the separation of the organic from the mineral matter by an acid which dissolves the latter, leaving the ossein in the form of the original bone. The carefully picked and crushed bones may be degreased by a solvent, cleansed, and then subjected to the acid treatment; or, as carried out in some works, the fat is recovered in the after-process of boiling the ossein. In either case the crushed bones are conveyed to a series of vats 10 feet square by 3 feet deep, each of which is three parts filled and then covered with water containing 10 per cent, of hydrochloric acid. Phosphates of lime and magnesia and carbonate of lime mainly comprise the mineral constituents of the bone, and these salts are dissolved out by the action of the acid, leaving the gelatine-forming ossein intact. The steeping usually occupies about four days, the acidulated water being renewed once during this period. The bones now become soft, leathery, and semi-transparent, and in this condition are sufficiently prepared for washing to remove the acid. This is carried out by filling up each vat with fresh water, allowing it to soak through the bones for six or seven hours, and then draining. The washing is repeated until the wash-water shows no appreciable precipitate on the addition of a few drops of nitrate of silver solution. A slight turbidity may be due to the presence of combined chlorine in the fresh water.

When sufficiently washed, the soft bones are thoroughly bleached by immersion in a 1 percent, solution of sulphurous acid for three hours, and then conveyed to the vats A, fig. 20, to undergo digestion. The dissolving process is effected in the manner described under skin glue, care, however, being taken that the water covering the soft bones should never exceed a temperature of 85 C. when heated by the steam coils. Above this heat gelatinous solutions are very sensitive as regards colour.

During the digestion, the fat if the raw bones have not undergone a degreasing process rises to the surface and is carefully skimmed off from time to time, the skimmings being subsequently washed with hot water, before filling into casks.

A second digestion is necessary to practically exhaust the gelatinous matter, and the first and second runnings from the vats, having a density corresponding to 20 and 12 per cent, dry glue respectively, as indicated by the glue meter, then flow to the clarifiers and are treated with a small quantity of potash alum; from thence the liquors pass through the filters for concentration in the Yaryan evaporator to a jellying strength of 32 per cent, dry glue.

To obtain the colour necessary for a high-grade gelatine, the concentrated liquors undergo a further bleaching in the tanks EE, fig. 12, and are then run on to the glass slabs to a depth of half an inch for cake and quarter of an inch for leaf gelatine.

As a commercial product leaf gelatine is coloured with dye-stuffs to suit certain trade requirements. Carmine is a colour often employed for this purpose, and aniline colours are also used in the proportion of 1 ounce of colouring matter dissolved in a small quantity of glycerine to every 16 lbs. of liquid gelatine, the solution being strained through linen cloth and then mixed with the concentrated liquors before jellying. In the production of coloured leaf gelatine the liquors are not bleached after concentration. The method of manufacturing gelatine varies ; for instance, some French makers substitute phosphoric for hydrochloric acid in dissolving the mineral matter of the bone. For this purpose the carefully picked bones are dried at a temperature not exceeding 100 C. and then pulverised to a coarse powder in a mill. The powdered bones are then introduced into a circular vat provided with a stirrer, and the phosphoric acid, of 12 Tw. strength in the proportion of 1 cubic foot by measure to each 10 lbs. of raw material, is well stirred in the mass. The acid decomposes the carbonate of lime with evolution of carbonic acid, and converts the insoluble phosphates of lime and magnesia into soluble acid phosphates. The stirring is continued until the carbonic acid is wholly driven off; and on allowing the mixture to stand for a time, the crude gelatine falls as a sediment to the bottom. After the supernatant liquor has been syphoned off and precipitated with sulphuric acid to liberate the phosphoric acid for use again as a dissolving agent, the sediment is well washed with cold water and then treated with hot water of a temperature not exceeding 85 C., which dissolves the crude gelatine ; the liquor is afterwards clarified, bleached, and concentrated in the usual way.

'Osseine' is a French preparation from bones, and is brought into the market in a dry and concentrated state for the manufacture of gelatine. In using it the product is soaked in water for forty-eight hours, the water being renewed every twelve hours. When it is thoroughly swollen, the 'osseine' is well washed with water until the washings are absolutely clear, and yields a gelatine quite clear and without any smell.
The washed product is next bleached for one hour in a bath of sulphurous acid of 1 Tw. strength, and then finally dissolved at a temperature of 85 C. in a wooden vat fitted with a copper steam coil and provided with a double wooden bottom to distribute the heat. The gelatinous liquor is concentrated and jellied without clarification.

Animal charcoal is a powerful decolourising agent, and its use as a filtering medium has met with some success in obtaining a white gelatine from low-grade bone products, and also in improving the colour of the gelatine obtained as a secondary product in the manufacture of neat's-foot oil.

Skin Gelatine.

The preparation of gelatine from the parings and cuttings of hides varies but little from the process as described in the manufacture of skin glue. In some factories, instead of using lime only in steeping the hide pieces, a mixture of caustic soda and lime made into a milk with water is sprayed over the mass in the pits. The use of caustic soda facilitates the saponification of any fat present and the dissolving of the fleshy matter.

Before the digestion, which is effected at a temperature not exceeding 85 C., the hide pieces, on removal from the lime pits, are washed free of any alkalinity, and are then bleached by sulphurous acid to destroy any injurious colouring matter. To completely exhaust the gelatinous matter during digestion, three 'boilings' are generally required, the first and second runnings being treated for gelatine, while the third is simply filtered for size.

A very fine water-white leaf gelatine is produced by cutting the jelly into small pieces, washing well with cold water and re-melting at 80 C., then pouring the liquor on the 'glasses' to the depth required.

Seaweed Gelatine.

A product hardly distinguishable from gelatine, and used for many purposes in the arts similarly to that body, is known as seaweed gelatine, and is produced from a genus of weed to which the name of Laminaria is given. When macerated with water, about 33 per cent, of the weight of the air-dried weed is removed. The residue, when digested with carbonate of sodium, is partly dissolved, forming a soluble compound of sodium alginate. On filtering, the filtrate is mixed with hydrochloric acid, which liberates the alginic acid. The acid is washed, bleached, and re-dissolved in alkali, and by concentration in a vacuum pan and then running on glass plates or porcelain slabs, the sodium alginate is obtained in the form of trans- parent flexible sheets like gelatine and having the same colour, but they are not gelatinous. These sheets can be rendered insoluble without altering their appearance by immersion in dilute hydrochloric acid; they can also be readily coloured like leaf gelatine.

In America a gelatine is made from seaweed, called by the native name of Tengusa. The weed is carefully dried and afterwards boiled so as to form a glue-like decoction, which is strained off and put into square boxes. When cool it forms a thick jelly, which can be easily divided into squares a foot in length. The manner in which the surplus water is removed is very ingenious. The jelly prisms are exposed in the open air during a cold night and allowed to freeze. During the day the sun melts the ice to water, which runs off, leaving behind what might be termed a skeleton of white horny substance, which is extremely light, and easily dissolved in hot water ; when cool, it again forms stiff jelly. This article can be applied to many purposes for culinary purposes, for making bonbons and jellies, for clarifying liquids, as a substitute for isinglass, for making moulds used by the plaster-of-Paris workers, for hardening the same material in short, as a substitute for all kinds of gelatines, over which it has the advantage of producing a
firmer jelly.

Comparison of French and British Gelatines. The ash and water absorptive-power are indicative of the value of a gelatine, and in the following table a comparison is made of gelatines of French and British manufacture.




Water absorption by Brand.

Ash. 28 '34 grams of Substance taken.




Coignet's gold label,

1 per cent.

340-08 grams.

Coignet's special,

1 per cent.

340-08 grams.

Ordinary French,

2 per cent.

292-81 grams.




Nelson's No. 1

2 per cent.

283-40 grams.

Swinburne's No. 2,  Patent isinglass

1 per cent

311-74 grams.

Cox's packet gelatine

2 per cent

279-62 grams.

The Behaviour of Gelatine with certain Salts

Gelatine is unaffected when in contact with solutions of lead, tin, nickel, cobalt, manganese, aluminium, magnesium, and other metallic salts. With a solution of chloride of barium it is completely dissolved. It is also, although to a smaller degree, soluble in chloride of strontium. Other chlorides, such as those of potassium, sodium, and calcium, do not act in the same way, nor do their iodides or bromides. With a solution containing 15 per cent, chloride of barium, the solubility is so great that sufficient gelatine may be dissolved to render the solution syrupy in consistence. The liquid keeps well, and does not decompose under the action of air.

Allowed to evaporate spontaneously, it leaves behind a solid white substance which, when examined under the microscope, shows itself to be composed of an amorphous mass of filaments mixed with fine crystals of chloride of barium, but it does not appear that any combination has taken place. This solid substance dissolves in water completely. When exposed to light, gelatine is rendered insoluble in the presence of bichromate of potassium. Gelatine is precipitated from its solution by chloride of iron both in the light and in the dark.


Size. As a cheap and easily workable agglutinant, size finds a ready use with calico-printers, painters, decorators, and in the carpet, straw-hat box, wallpaper and other trades. Size is undried glue, and exists as a tremulous jelly, possessing all the adhesive properties of the latter, but in a much less concentrated form.

In a sense, size is a bye-product in the manufacture of glue and gelatine, for the third liquors in the exhaustion of the raw material only are used for this purpose, and these, if converted into either of the above agglutinants, would yield an inferior product ; consequently it pays the manufacturer better to gelatinise it and to sell it in this form without drying. In small works exclusively making bone size the manufacturer with no benzene or glue plant at his disposal simply washes the rough bones in a revolving drum, and after crushing in a mill, feeds the broken pieces into an elevator, which lifts and discharges them into one or more digesters heated by ' live ' steam. When the bones are sufficiently acted on, the steam is turned off, and the grease and gelatinous liquor are blown through the outlet pipe to an overhead tank. After separating the fat, which is subsequently well washed with hot water to remove the impurities, the gelatinous liquor is filtered to separate any suspended matter, and then evaporated in a wooden vat fitted with a steam coil to the density required.

During the evaporation a moderate charge of sulphurous acid solution is sometimes added to improve the colour. Size is brought into the market as (1) common size; (2) medium size; (3) best size. The first contains 25 per cent, glue and 75 per cent, water; the second, 30 per cent, glue and 70 per cent, water ; and the third, 38 per cent, glue and 62 per cent, water. For exportation a stronger size is made in three grades, No. 1 containing 40'5 per cent, glue, No. 2 44.5 per cent., and No. 3 49 per cent., the liquors being evaporated to these densities before jellying.

Glue or gelatine in a dried state is a very stable body, but in the form of a jelly it soon ferments, becoming sour and mouldy, unless some preservative agent is used to prevent decomposition. For this purpose sulphate of zinc is principally used; boracic acid, and also a preparation known by the name of 'Salinfer,' have been used with good effect. These preservatives are added to the liquors before running into the casks to set.

In sorting the cakes of glue before packing, a number are always found unsuitable, owing to their having become twisted during the shrinkage in drying, or not equal to the standard as regards colour. These defects, while not lowering to any appreciable extent the value of the cakes as an agglutinant, yet affect their selling power. They now find a ready sale in a powdered condition as ' Concentrated Size ' or 'Glue Powder,' the cakes being ground, sifted, and graded by suitable machinery.


The purest form of commercial gelatine is isinglass. This valuable product is obtained from the swimming bladder or sound of various species of fish, of which the sturgeon yields the finest quality. Isinglass is brought into commerce under the name of pipe, lump, honeycomb, purse, leaf, and other designations, and these different kinds are due to the method of preparing the bladder. For instance, pipe, purse, and lump isinglass consists of the sound desiccated, but unopened; while in the leaf and honeycomb kinds the bladder is cut open and then dried unfolded. When the cut bladder is folded and dried, the product is known as book isinglass, while in the ribbon isinglass it is rolled out. From Russia is obtained the finest quality of isinglass in the form of leaf, book, and long and short staple, the four varieties principally coming from Astrakhan and Taganrog. In preparing Russian isinglass, the swimming bladder is first cleansed of the mucus and blood stains by immersion in hot water, then cut open longitudinally and exposed to the air with the inner delicate silvery membrane upwards. When dried this fine membrane is removed by beating and rubbing, and the swimming bladder is made into the different forms by twisting or folding.

Brazilian isinglass is imported from Para and Maranham in the form of pipe, lump, and honeycomb. Pipe Brazilian isinglass is prepared by drying the swimming bladder unopened. When dry, each bladder is from 10 to 12 inches long and 2 to 2J inches broad, weighing about 5 ounces. Lump Brazilian isinglass consists of two swimming bladders placed side by side, considerably separated at one end, but communicating with each other at the other extremity. An average-sized lump will weigh about 6J ounces. Honeycomb Brazilian isinglass is the lump variety split open. The latter is sometimes softened and rolled out into thin strips, and is then known as ribbon isinglass. Brazilian, and also the isinglass imported from Hudson's Bay, Penang, India, etc., is the product of different species of fish, and is darker in colour and less soluble than the Russian variety. As received in this country, isinglass is a hard and tough substance, and for many purposes it requires to be cut into fine shreds to facilitate its solution.
According to Watson Smith, there seem to be only six isinglass cutters in England, all being domiciled in London. The crude isinglass is first sorted, soaked in water until it becomes a little pliable, and then trimmed. Sometimes it is just pressed by hand on a board with a rounded surface ; at others it is run once between strong rollers to flatten it a little and make the dark and dirty spots accessible to the knife, the top of the roller being used to bend the pieces on.

The cuttings are sold separately as an inferior grade. The next process is that of rolling. Very hard steel rollers, powerfully and accurately adjusted, are used. They are capable of exerting a pressure of 100 tons. Two are employed, the first to bring the isinglass to a uniform thick- ness, and the smaller one, kept cool by a current of water, to reduce the isinglass to a little more than the thickness of writing paper. It is very curious to see the thick, tough pieces gradually spreading out under the rollers and folded and rolled like puff pastry, till the separate pieces so unite themselves that no joint can be seen, and the mass is reduced, under the coarse rollers, to what looks like semi-transparent millboard. From the finer rollers it comes in a beautifully transparent ribbon, many yards to the pound, 'shot' like watered silk, in parallel lines about an inch broad. It is now hung up to dry in a separate room, the drying being an operation of considerable nicety. When sufficiently dried, it is stored till wanted for cutting, or is sold as ribbon isinglass to those who prefer this form.

The machines for cutting are well and accurately made, and are so adjusted that they slice pieces off a sheet of paper without bending it in the least. For the fine 'cut' isinglass, these machines are run at a great speed, 2000 to 2500 revolutions, making 10,000 to 12,000 cuts in a minute. It takes an hour to cut 5 lbs., so that every pound would contain 100,000 to 125,000 separate fibres, if none of them were broken. Isinglass is used in but few industries. The largest quantity is used by brewers and wine merchants for clarifying purposes. This property is extraordinary, for gelatine, which is chemically the same thing, does not possess it. One theory is that the tenacious mucilage shaken with the liquid gradually settles to the bottom, entangling all floating particles as it sinks. Another suggestion is that a very delicate fibrous network remains after the isinglass is dissolved, and entangles the particles in the way that the mucilage is supposed to act. Many varieties, generally the lower brands, are used for this purpose. Some brewers use it in the natural state, others prefer it manufactured into a fine or wide strip, which dissolves quicker and suffers no waste. At present Penang is the favourite kind. Russian long staple isinglass is used only by the Worcestershire farmers for clarifying their cyder. In spite of its costliness, Scotch brewers prefer Russian leaf. For clarifying purposes the isinglass is 'cut' or dissolved in acid, sulphurous acid being used as the solvent, owing to its preservative nature. When reduced to the right consistency, a little of the solution is placed in each cask before sending it out for consumption. Sole skins are sometimes used as a substitute for isinglass. They are only to be had in winter, the supply is uncertain, and they have not the strength of the Penang varieties. Next to the brewers' demand comes that of the cook, who uses it for making jellies, thickening syrups, and stiffening jams. Russian takes the highest position, owing to its superior strength and nourishing properties. Isinglass being the purest natural form of gelatine, a very fine article has long been known in the market as ' patent isinglass/ which is a gelatine of high quality. It does not, however, possess the clarifying power of the natural article, but is equally used for culinary and confectionery purposes. Outside the demands of the brewer and cook, isinglass has but a limited use in the arts. In textile works isinglass is used along with gum to give lustre to ribbons and other silk articles, while as a substitute for glass it answers well for lamp shades. Isinglass is also used in preparing a substitute for Indian ink; for this purpose three parts of isinglass are made into a size by dissolving them in six parts soft water. In another vessel, 1 part of Spanish liquorice is melted in 2 parts of soft water, over a fire, and then saturated with 1 part of ivory black. The two solutions are mixed together and stirred well. This mixture is evaporated to a thick syrup, and this is run into a leaden mould which has been slightly oiled, and allowed to set firm. The product is much of the same nature and applicable to the same purpose as Indian ink. As an agglutinant, isinglass is used in the form of diamond cement by dissolving two parts of it in four parts of spirit of wine, the solution on cooling yielding an opaque, milk-white, hard jelly. It also dissolves in strong acetic acid, forming a powerful cement, much used for repairing glass, pottery, and similar small objects.

The well-known court plaster is made by brushing a solution of isinglass, mingled with a small quantity of tincture of benzoin, over black sarsenet.

Isinglass is not suitable for photographic work, on account of its great solubility and inferior tenacity.



Recent improvements in arts, manufactures, and mines By Andrew Ure 1847

GELATINE. The substance produced by boiling the skin of animals in water, which in its crude but solid state is called glue, and when a tremulous semi-liquid, size. The latter preparation is greatly used by the paper-makers, and was much improved by the following process, for which Mr. William Rattray obtained a patent in May, 1838. The parings and scrows of skins are steeped in water till they begin to putrefy; they are then washed repeatedly in fresh water with the aid of stampers, afterward subjected, in wooden or leaden vessels, to the action of water strongly impregnated with sulphurous acid for from 12 to 24 hours; they are now drained, washed with stampers in cold water, and next washed with water of the temperature of 120° F., which is poured upon them and run off very soon to complete their purification. The scrows are finally converted into size, by digestion in water of 120° for 24 hours; and the solution is made perfectly fine by being strained through several thicknesses of woollen cloth. They must be exhausted of their gelatinous substance, by repeated digestions in the warm water. The claim is for the sulphurous acid, which, while it cleanses, acts as an antiseptic.— Newton's Journal, xiv. 173.

A fine gelatine for culinary uses, as a substitute for isinglass, is prepared by Mr. Nelson's patent, dated March, 1839. After washing the parings, &c., of skin, he scores their surfaces, and then digests them in a dilute caustic soda ley during ten days. They are next placed in an air-tight vat, lined with cement, kept at a temperature of 70° F.; then washed in a revolving cylinder apparatus with plenty of cold water, and afterward exposed to the fumes if burning sulphur (sulphurous acid) in a wooden chamber. They are now squeezed to expel the moisture, and finally converted into soluble gelatine by water in earthen vessels, enclosed in steam cases. The fluid gelatine is purified by straining it at a temperature of 1003 or 120° F. I have examined this patent gelatine, and found it to be remarkably good, and capable of forming a fine calf's foot jelly.

Very recently a very beautiful sparkling gelatine has been prepared under a patent granted to Messrs. J. & G. Cox, of Edinburgh. By their process the substance is rendered perfectly pure, while it possesses a gelatinizing force superior even to isinglass. It makes a splendid calves' feet jelly and a milk-white blanc-mange. The patentees also prepare a semi-solid gelatine, resembling jujubes, which readily dissolves in warm water, as also in the mouth, and may be employed to make an extemporaneous jelly.

The gelatine of bones may be extracted best by the combined action of steam and a current of water trickling over their crushed fragments in a properly constructed apparatus. When the gelatine is to be used as an alimentary article, the bones ouzht to be quite fresh, well preserved in brine, or to be dried strongly by a stove. Bones are best crushed by passing them between grooved iron rolls. The cast-iron cylinders in which they are to be steamed, should be three times greater in length than in diameter. To obtain 1,000 rations of gelatinous soup daily, a charge of four cylinders is required; each being 3| feet long, by 14 inches wide, capable of holding 70 lbs. of bones. These will yield each hour about 20 gallons of a strong jelly, and will require nearly one gallon of water in the form of steam, and 5 gallons of water to be passed through them in the liquid state. The 5 quarts of jelly produced hourly by each cylinder, proceeds from the 1 quart of steam-water and 4 quarts of percolating water.

The boiler should furnish steam of about 223° Fahr., at a pressure of about 4 lbs. on the square inch.

In fig. 70, A, B, C, D, represents a vertical section of the cylinder; G, H, I, K, a section of the basket or cage, as filled with the bruised bones, enclosed in the cylinder; E, C, C, the pipe which conducts the steam down to the bottom of the cylinder; L, S, a pipe for introducing water into the interior; M, a stopcock for regulating the quantity of water (according to the force of the steam pressure within the apparatus), which should be 3 | quarts per hour; N is a tube of tin plate fitting tightly into the part S, of the pipe L; it is shut at R, and perforated below with a hole; it if inserted in its place, after the cage full of bones has been introduced.

Fig. 71 is an elevation of the apparatus. A, B, C, D, represent the four cylinders raised about 20 inches above the floor, and fixed in their seats by screws; h; h, are the lids; g, g, tubulures or valves in the lids ; i, ring junction of the lid; p, a thermometer! /, /, stop-cocks for drawing off the jelly; n, n, small gutters of tin-plate; m, the general gutter of discharges into the cistern b ; o, a block and tackle for hoisting the cageful of bones in and out. Fig. 72 is an end view of the apparatus ; a, the main steam-pipe; a, b, c, c, branches that conduct the steam to the bottom of the cylinder; o, the tackle for raising the cage; », stopcock; », small gutter; m, main conduit; b, cistern of reception.

When a strong and pure jelly is wished for, the cylinder charged with the bones is to be wrapped in blanket stuff; and whenever the grease ceases to drop, the stopcock which admits the cold water is to be shut, as also that at the bottom of the cylinder, which is to be opened only at the end of every hour, and so little as to let the gelatinous solution run out, without allowing any of the steam to escape with it.

Butcher's meat contains on an average in 100 pounds, 24 of dry flesh, 56 of water, and 20 of bones. These 20 pounds can furnish 6 pounds of alimentary substance in a dry state; whence it appears that, by the above means, one fourth more nutritious matter can be obtained than is usually got. I am aware that a keen dispute has been carried on for some time in Paris, between the partisans and adversaries of gelatine as an article of food. It is probable that both parties have pushed their arguments too far. Calf's-foot jelly is still deemed a nutritious article by the medical men of this country, .at least, though it is not to be trusted to alone, but should have a due admixture or interchange of fibrine, albumine, easeum, &c



Three Gelatine Process Accounts from

Nelson, Dale & Co, Emscote Mills

1837 George Nelson's Patent - 1899 Alfred Barnard's Peep - 1950 Sam Nelson

George Nelson's Patent 1837

Mr. Nelson describes his invention as Consisting—1, in applying a caustic alkaline solution, either with or without acids to all such cuttings of hides and skins as glue pieces are commonly made of (taking care, however, to reject such as are in a putrescent state,) and—2, of employing acids alone (sulphurous acid hi a liquid state excepted) for that purpose un-combined with any alkaline solution. By these means he obtains gelatine of two qualities, which he calls first and second.


In manufacturing his first quality of gelatine, Mr. Nelson employs a caustic alkaline solution with sulphurous acid gas in manner following:—


"When the cuttings have been freed from hair, flesh, and fat, and washed clean in cold water, I score the grain side of them to the depth of about an eighth part of an inch, in lines about an inch apart, in order to facilitate the action of the alkali which I use, and to render-such action more uniform.


I then macerate them in a caustic solution of water is continually supplied. I continue the cylinders revolving in a current of water, as I have described, until the alkali is sufficiently washed out of the cuttings, and I generally find six or seven days sufficient for this washing, when I use cuttings of ordinary thickness; but when I use cuttings which are thicker than these I continue the washing in proportion to the thickness of such cuttings.


When the cuttings have been thus washed I remove them from the washing cylinders and place them in a wooden closet, constructed in the ordinary method to prevent the escape of gas, and there expose them to the direct action of sulphurous acid gas, produced by the combustion of sulphur within the closet.

I continue the cuttings thus exposed to the direct action of this gas, until they have a slight excess of acid, and I ascertain whether they have an excess of acid by testing them with litmus paper in the ordinary manner.


I then remove them from the closet and press them by any ordinary means to separate as much water as possible; and after they have been thus pressed, I put them into glazed earthenware vessels, or any other vessels which are not acted upon by acid. I call these vessels steam-baths, and I apply steam to them in the manner usually employed for heating steam-baths, but any other convenient means of heating them may be used; I thus bring the cuttings to a temperature of about 150" Fahrenheit, and I keep them at this temperature and by means of a suitable wooden instrument I stir or agitate them until they are almost entirely dissolved.


The liquid thus formed is gelatine, and I separate it from the residuum which remains un-dissolved by straining, and put it into vessels which I call settling vessels, and which are constructed in the same manner as the steam-baths. I beat these settling vessels in the manner which I have already pointed out for heating the steam-baths. Whilst this liquid gelatine is in these settling vessels it should be kept at a temperature between 100° and 1205 of Fahrenheit, and I allow it to remain undisturbed in the settling vessels', for the purpose of clearing it, until I consider the impurities which it contains have sufficiently settled or subsided.


I generally find nine hours sufficient for this purpose, but if the impurities have not sufficiently settled or subsided in that time, I prefer to clear it by straining it through a woollen cloth. I remove the liquid gelatine from the settling vessels by means of a syphon, but any other suitable means may be used for this purpose, and after it has been sufficiently cleared I pour it upon slabs which I call cooling-slabs to the depth of about half an inch. These slabs may be of stone or marble, but they must have frames of some convenient material, at least half an inch in depth fitted to their edges, and care should be taken to place the slabs in cool situations. I allow this gelatine to remain upon the slabs until it becomes cold and sets into a firm substance, and I then cut it into pieces, and wash these in the washing cylinders and water vessels which I have already described, in the same manner as I have already mentioned for that purpose in respect to the cutting, as I take them from the macerating vessels.


This washing must be continued until the excess of acid is entirely or nearly altogether removed from the gelatine, and I generally find that 3 days are sufficient for this purpose; but I ascertain whether the excess of acid has been removed by testing the gelatine with litmus paper in the ordinary manner. After the excess of acid has been thus removed, I take the gelatine from the cylinders and put it into the steam-baths, and then dissolve it by applying heat to the baths in the manner which I have already pointed out for that purpose; but it will be desirable to avoid raising the temperature of the gelatine above 85° of Fahrenheit. When the gelatine has been thus completely dissolved, I poor it again upon the cooling slabs, as before, and I allow it to remain until it becomes again cold, and sets into a firm substance. I then cut it into pieces of any convenient size, and dry it upon nets by exposure to a current of cool dry air, and when it has been thus completely dried, it is fit for use."


The gelatine of the second quality is prepared, without the aid of any alkaline solution, by merely steeping cuttings in a weak solution of sulphuric acid, or subjecting them to the direct action of sulphurous acid gas, until in either case they have imbibed “an excess of acid." After this they are kept in wooden barrels for three weeks, at a temperature of about 70°, and then put into a steam-bath and entirely dissolved.  Liquid gelatine is then obtained, which is treated in the same manner as the liquid gelatine mentioned in the process before described, until it is completely dried and fit for use.


1899 process Alfred Barnard

Hides were brought by canal to the doors of the receiving houses. A guillotine was used to cut up the hides into strips and then rolled away in trolleys to cleansing houses. Great open pits were sunk into the pathway, constructed from cement and brick. Skins were thrown, and left in the brine of alkali for weeks.

The strips of hide were then taken to a sorting house, inspected and graded then finally cleansed in pure spring water. The Skin-cutting room, had three formidable machines with sharp teeth named Devils, which cut the pieces of hides into strips, which dropped into a receptacle below called "Hades" which carried them to an upper gallery of the building, where they were shredded. The shreds were put into circular vats fitted with revolving machinery on the upper floor of the melting house. The slices were removed from the vats in water-barrows to the ground floor of the Melting house, where they were drained before being delivered to the first floor (by a lift), for the final treatment. This room contained a number of large melting pans, heated by steam coils.

The slices were boiled to become liquid gelatine. On the ground floor of the evaporating room the liquid jelly was drawn off and placed in pans to remove excessive moister, before being taken away in "hearses" and "drums" to the cooling house. These cooling chambers were called Slabbing houses, where liquid gelatine was cooled by being poured in thin layers on plate-glass slabs, which were erected on beds of concrete and brick, placed in rows down the centre of the buildings.

The liquid jelly was poured on the top of the slabs forming a thin layer. When cooled, it was peeled off and cut into sheets and strips, placed on wire trays then moved to the drying rooms. These Drying Rooms were heated by miles of steam pipes, Racks were erected over the pipes where the wire trays containing the gelatine were placed. When dry, the sheet gelatine was taken to be cut up and packed.

Dr Richard Coleman 1950’s Account (2011 email to Sam Nelson)

One of the unique features of the Nelson process was the use of churns for the liming process, rather than pits. The churns were rotated regularly by means of worm drives from shafts running the length of the building.

Following the lime treatment by a few days in caustic soda may also have been unique to Nelsons. After washing, the skins were neutralised by soaking for a day or two in dilute acid. I believe the use of sulphur dioxide for this may also have been a Nelson innovation. Originally, I believe, to produce a paler gelatine, it also gave greater speed in photographic emulsions.

The character of photographic emulsions depended (in those far off days at least) on the presence of highly obscure sulphur compounds which formed sensitive nuclei on the silver bromide particles, and on some equally obscure protein derivatives which controlled the particle growth (called restrainers). The presence of the mysterious compounds depended on the nature of the raw material as well as on the process variations, such as the use of various acids or even the addition of hydrogen peroxide in the neutralisation stage. The producers of photographic materials would say what type of gelatine they required and every batch was tested for its photographic properties.

The use of a short treatment in stronger alkali, followed (as I remember it) by neutralisation in a relatively strong acid solution, melting at a low pH, and removing the acid with an ion exchange resin was the Davis process., and produced gelatine of a rather special character. I remember us building some plant to try this at Warwick, and making at least one batch, but what happened after that I don't know. It may have been that I left (which I did at the end of October 1956).

Gelatine Knife 1960's Photograph Brian Jones Aug 2011)


Compiled for the benefit of Warwickians and Others by Anthony James Leahy


Rediscovering the Gelatine Factory



The Gelatine Factory

A comprehensive account 1899

from Round About Warwick


George Nelson



Nelson's Emscote Mills 2009



T B Dale


Charles Nelson's

Cement Works at Stockton


The Nelson Brothers


William Nelson


George H Nelson


Sir E Montague Nelson

E M (Sam) Nelson


A Visit to

Messrs. G. Nelson, Dale & Co. 1880



Nelson Works

Tomoana New Zealand


Guy Montague Nelson

Nelson Village

Charles St, Warwick


The Lawn at Emscote


Nelson's Lozenges

 packaging & adds

Nelson's Club

Isinglass Wars

Swinborne v Nelson


Nelson's 1950's

Warwick Advertiser account 1953



Descendants of George Nelson


George Wyatt A city trade jubilee



Nelson's Heritage Walk


Gelatine and its uses


Davis Gelatine


Sir E Montague Nelson's Scrapbook Circa 1882

Nelson Gym

Nelson Patents


The Nelsons of Warwick Timeline





Walter Nelson




Home Comforts


Mary Hooper



Mary Hooper Letters

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Nelson's Home Comforts

Mary Hooper


Wives and Housewives

Mary Hooper


Little Dinners

Mary Hooper


Cookery for Invalids

Mary Hooper


Every Day Meals

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Hints on Cookery

Mary Hooper

Good Plain Cookery

Mary Hooper


Handbook for the

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Weekly Telegraph

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Our Dog Prin

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Lily's Letters from the Farm

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Charles Wentworth Wass

Round About Warwick

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The Pie Factory at Emscote

Nelson Story

In Brief


Nelsons Story


Nelson's Home Comforts

From Beginning To End


Cookery & Home Comforts

Mrs Wigley

Rock's Royal Cabinet

Leamington & Warwick 1880



Anthony Leahy



Anthony Leahy


Art & Photography

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A Major Arcana

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The Drumroom

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Book Wanted Handbook For The Breakfast Table

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