(NewsUSA) - When you think of holiday dinners, it's likely that the first image that comes to mind is a golden, roasted turkey. While the bird may take center stage, for many it's the hearty sides -- creamy gravy, silken mashed potatoes -- and delicious desserts -- fruit pies and sweet puddings -- whose rich flavors and textures make the holiday feast.
No matter your preference, the special ingredients in these treasured traditions are important. It's the hint of this or the dash of that which leave you salivating -- but it could well be a centuries-old ingredient called carrageenan that makes it all hang together delivering the perfect bite every time.
Carrageenan, pronounced [kar-uh-gee-nuh n], is a soluble fiber product of red seaweed. It is a food ingredient from a natural source. While it might sound new to you, carrageenan actually has its origins in small kitchens across the globe and back hundreds of years. The name carrageenan is believed to have its roots in the Gaelic language and was used as a gelling agent in making milk puddings in Ireland and Scotland as long as 600 years ago.
Today, carrageenan is used in much the same way for prepared pies and frozen desserts. In your favorite pumpkin pie, carrageenan offers that perfectly creamy, but not too dense, taste and texture. For ice cream, carrageenan helps provide a uniform, smooth consistency, especially in lower-fat offerings like frozen yogurt. Carrageenan is especially useful for its ability to create a creamy, indulgent dessert while also reducing the amount of sugar and fat in the recipe. It can also make some of your foods last longer and without refrigeration.
Carrageenan's use is not limited to desserts. You may find it in a prepared soup, mixed with other ingredients to create a thick, hearty texture. Your favorite hot cocoa might include carrageenan to keep each sip rich and equally chocolately. Or carrageenan may be the "certain something" that gives gravy a lovely, even finish.
Carrageenan is approved for use in for organic foods, and meets vegan, halal and kosher standards, making it a popular ingredient in foods at health food and specialty stores alike.
So, as you enjoy the foods that define your holiday tradition, give thanks for all the ingredients that go into the celebratory meals that you look forward to year round.
Visit carrageenan.info to learn more about carrageenan.