Don’t you love this tag line? “Delicate. Delightful. Dainty.” Yes. My wiggly, wobbly jello is oh-so dainty.
I’m now deep into the salad portion of the cookbook, and honor-bound by all that is good and holy to devote an entire post to Jell-O.
Jell-O actually dates back to 1845, but was not popularized until the turn of the 20th century. It’s kind of an endearing story. A carpenter was experimenting with creating a cough remedy when he came across a formula that turned into a gelatin dessert. He gave it to his wife, May and named it “jell-o.” He sold the recipe to a businessman in 1899, who was more successful at selling the product to the public. But at its heart, Jell-O is a story about a husband creating a sweet dessert for his wife.
I found two interesting books at Elmhurst Public Library on vintage recipes. One, The American History Cookbook by Mark H. Zanger, refers to a cookbook from 1895 in which is a recipe for “Pyramid Jellies.” The directions encourage use of “liqueur glasses with tall but not recurved sides” in which to mold the jellies. Pretty photos of tall, pyramid-like jelly molds accompany the recipe. Now, this was before the days of Jell-O, so it’s not hard to understand why cooks around the turn of the 20th century latched onto Jell-O so readily.
I counted 8 recipes in the Salad section of the cookbook that call for Jell-O. Today’s recipe is from Kim L. and includes lemon jello, red hot cinnamon candies, and thick applesauce. I’m curious to see what the consistency will be since it sounds like everything melts together.
I accidentally bought only one package of lemon jello, so I halved the recipe. It took longer than I expected for the red hots to melt. Here they are not quite melted.
So I transferred the mixture to a plastic bowl and put them in the microwave for about a minute. That did the trick. Once they melted, I added the applesauce and chilled.
The jello came out perfectly after a night’s chilling in the frig. Sad to say that it got mixed reviews from my family, but I liked it. It tasted kind of lemony/cinnamony/appley all at the same time. Give it a shot the next time you have a family gathering and see if your guests can guess the secret ingredient (the red hots!).
If you don’t know about Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, do yourself a favor and give yourself an education. I searched to see if he featured Jell-O in any of his church skits, and sure enough, found one.
Oh, Jell-O, you are the unsung hero of every church social, potluck, and ladies’ luncheon. And we owe our debt of gratitude to a carpenter from LeRoy, New York who made something sweet for his girl.