I don't know about you, but I grew up in the era of congealed salads, especially around the holidays. My 86-year old mother's famous one was lime green and consisted of lime Jell-O, canned pineapple, chopped pecans, bits of creme cheese and marshmallows. It was always a dish at our family holiday celebrations. I remember other versions of congealed salads that contained canned "fruit cocktail", which we all know consists of not ONLY high fructose corn syrup but also sugar AND (more) corn syrup. Yikes!
In my research of gelatin salads, I found this very entertaining article, "A Social History of Jell-O Salad, The Rise and Fall of an American Icon" (www.seriouseats.com). Here is an excerpt from that article referring to a period in the late 1800's to early 1900's:
Instant gelatin fit the bill. It was fast, unlike the traditional method of making gelatin. It was economical: a housewife could stretch her family's leftovers by encasing them in gelatin. And, since sugar was already included in the flavored mixes, the new packaged gelatins didn't require cooks to use up their household stores of sugar. It was also neat and tidy, a quality much valued by the domestic-science movement as well as its Victorian forebears, who were mad for molded foods of all kinds, says Belluscio. Jellied salads, unlike tossed ones, were mess-free, never transgressing the border of the plate: "A salad at last in control of itself," Shapiro writes. Cooks in this era molded everything from cooked spinach to chicken salad, with care to avoid the cardinal sin of messiness.
Here is another excerpt from this article regarding the fall in popularity of congealed salads today:
In its heyday, Jell-O salad was ubiquitous across the United States. Today it is, in the words of Perfection Salad author Laura Shapiro, "a once-loved dish safely congealed in the decorative mold of history."
I decided since the holidays are around the corner, I would reinvent my mom's Lime Jell-O Salad and attempt to make a healthier version.
Here are your ingredients:
- 3 packages Knox Gelatine
- Juice of 4 limes
- 2-3 tablespoons sugar or 5-6 drops liquid Stevia (or to taste)
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup fresh pineapple, chopped
- 1 cup pecans, chopped
- 8 ounces creme cheese, cubed
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- Optional: 1 cup green grapes, halved
- 1 cup mini marshmallows
First, put the 3 gelatin packets in a small saucepan and add in sugar. After mixing these together, add in 2 cups water and place the pan over medium heat. While it is heating, whisk the mixture until all the sugar dissolves. Before it comes to an actual boil, remove from the heat and add in lime juice.
Pour this into a bowl and set in the refrigerator to chill and start congealing. When it reaches the consistency of raw egg whites, fold in all the chopped ingredients to incorporated everything well.
After reading more on the internet, lightly oiling the gelatin mold with a vegetable oil will make it easier to release later, but I simply poured the mixture into a wet mold and placed it in the refrigerator for a 2-3 hours. After it has completely set, place the mold into a rimmed bowl and pour hot water around it to release it. (I also found this link to be very helpful with tips and tricks for congealed salads that you might consider referring to, "Tricks and Tips: Fun Things You Can Do With Jell-0 Gelatin Desserts".)
Next simply invert it onto a serving platter and garnish as desired. If this is a dish that will be included in a holiday buffet, I would recommend keeping it refrigerated until right before serving. I would love to hear your stories of congealed salad family recipes!