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Retro Food - The Magic of Jell-O

  • c

Mom found an old (late 60's?) recipe book for the many wondrous uses for Jell-O. I'm flipping through it and can't believe the things General Foods expected you to do with the stuff. Examples:

Frosty Melon: Basically peel a whole honeydew or cantalope, leaving it whole. Cut a slice from one end, scoop out the insides and drain. Meanwhile, make your favorite fruit flavor of Jell-O and add desired fruit chunks. Spoon Jell-O mixture into melon and replace the cut slice. Secure with toothpicks and chill. Next (this is the capper), cover the whole thing with a milk & cream cheese mixture! Slice and serve and wow your guests. Presto: Frosty Melon! Does anyone find this entire concept bizarre? There's even a lovely photo (if I had a scanner I'd post it).

Avocado Pie: Prepare one box of lime Jell-O. Drain a can of crushed pineapple (!). Dice half of one avocado. Mash the other half and add cream cheese until creamy. Then fold this with the diced avocado, pineapple, and a cup of whipped cream (!). Spoon this horrific mixture into a graham cracker crust and chill. Garnish with pineapple slices, and be the envy of your neighbors at your next key party!

What other unthinkable things were unsuspecting people expected to conjure up in their kitchens in times past?

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  1. What do you do with the lime jello in the Avocado Pie?

    5 Replies
    1. re: Jenny

      Sorry -- rushed paraphrasing. The avocado/whipped cream/pineapple combo gets folded into the Jell-O, which has been thickened with the leftover pineapple juice and some lime juice.

      If you are actually interested in making this, I can e-mail you the verbatim recipe!

      1. re: Chowderhead

        According to Harold McGee, fresh pineapple has an enzyme that prevents gelatin from setting. I thought that applied to canned pineapple as well. Maybe it is eliminated in the canning process?

        1. re: lucia
          Caitlin McGrath

          Yes, canned pineapple or canned or boiled pineapple juice do not inhibit gelatin from setting, just the fresh does.

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            other fresh ingredients that challenge jell-o's firmness are kiwi, papaya, guava, figs, & ginger root.

          2. re: lucia

            At the time this cookbook came out, crushed pineapple was only of the sweetened variety, so the juice was probably more sugar water than fresh pineapple juice. That wouldn't interfere with the jello setting.

      2. I think Jello is cool!! (no pun intended!)

        1. c

          I remember being completely enchanted by The Jello Cookbook as a child. I was very unhappy that I couldn't make half the recipes, because in my house there was only Cool Whip, not Dream Whip or real cream (apparently, you can substitute Dream Whip for whipped cream, but whatever chemicals Cool Whip is made from, they are not Jello-compatible). I do remember making whipped Jello layered over unwhipped jello, as well as numerous Jello "salads" with various canned vegetables or fruits suspended in Jello mixed with mayo, cream cheese, or something else terifying. I think of these now as "tragic aspic." And I remember being amazed the first time I made a bavarian as an adult and realized that this was the same thing I had made in a bastardized version as a child with Jello and melted ice cream.

          Never did get to make the rainbow Jello, though. Rainbow Jello was nine flavors of Jello, layered in brandy snifters that had been tilted during the molding process so that the stripes were on a diagonal. i thought it was the epitome of sophistication, but my mom said it took too much Jello. Sigh.

          3 Replies
          1. re: curiousbaker

            There is a recipe in the book for the "multi-stripe delight". Five stripes of different Jell-O on a diagonal in a brandy snifter, topped with frosted grapes (grapes dipped in egg whites and sprinkled with any flavor Jell-O). I love this recipe book.

              1. re: Missy2U

                Brilliant, that is the exact page from the book. As you can see, as an homage to the book I changed my handle to the name of the first item I describe above (I used to be Chowderhead).

          2. Here's a link that has LOTS of stuff related to Jell-o. Enter at your own risk.

            Link: http://www.boston-baden.com/hazel/Jel...

            1. Odd you should mention this. My grandmother gets a seniors' newspaper on Sundays which lists a few recipes each week. Last Sunday's included some travesty of a salad involving lime (or lemon, or lemon-lime! you pick!) jello and assorted vegetables, including onions.

              I remember having seen one of these Jello cookbooks too. I think jello and meat should not ever, ever be combined, but I guess you'll never know until you try it. I will never know.

              For even MORE disgusting comestibles, visit The Gallery of Regrettable Food!

              Link: http://www.lileks.com/institute/galle...

              1. If you're interested in retro food, there's a whole virtual museum of it on James Lileks' site, called The Gallery of Regrettable Food. I can't really look at it at work because of the explosive laughter it provokes in me.

                Lots of other great stuff on the site too.

                Link: http://www.lileks.com/institute/galle...

                1. There is a very pretty jello recipe for 4th of July which is made in a large trifle bowl.

                  bottom layer: red jello with raspberries
                  middle layer: beaten creme fraiche with cream cheese
                  top layer: blue jello with blueberries.
                  garnish: stabilized whipped cream "florettes" topped
                  with berries.


                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Funwithfood

                    THERE'S BLUE JELLO??? What on earth does it taste like or what's it supposed to taste like?

                    1. re: efdee

                      The Blue jello is supposed to taste like Smurfs.

                      1. re: BeaN

                        or windshield wiper fluid

                      2. re: efdee

                        It is called "Berry Blue". I don't remember exactly what it tasted like, but just remember thinking that it "was the weakest link" in my otherwise beautiful and tasty dish. (Not all stores carry it.)

                      3. re: Funwithfood

                        Blue is a primary color so you cannot combine other colors to achieve it. Maybe you could use plain gelatin and give it whatever flavor you would like, something that would work with blueberries of course and then tint it blue with food color.

                        1. re: Candy

                          You could take some canned blueberries and use the juice with some unflavored gelatin. It's not true blue (not like the technicolor color of blue plackaged jello) but it's close enough and tastier too.

                        2. re: Funwithfood

                          Hey, jello fan, here's my fave summer dessert:

                          raspberry jello softened in 1/2 c hot water
                          cooked rhubard 1/2 c.
                          strawberries--about 5
                          plain yogurt, 1/2 c.

                          Puree in blender. Add a few fresh raspberries, refrigerate. The jello has all the sugar you need for the rhubard, and the color is excellent.

                          1. re: Funwithfood

                            Can you add a few drops of blue food color to the dry sugar before preparing?

                          2. that book sounds like a riot!!! i'm going to start looking for it at garage sales, etc.

                            my only jell-o experiments were there vodka shooters that EVERYONE made in college -- topped w/ coolwhip, natch.

                            1. Ah, yes, Jell-O. For me, it shall always be the food of illness, oral surgery and death.

                              Jell-O sustained me, along with ramen noodles, after my four impacted wisdom teeth were removed. Any fond memories of Jell-O from childhood were obliterated during that episode of my life.

                              I've also spent too much time visiting people in the hospital with flaccid blocks of Jell-O malingering on their meal trays.

                              Lovely gel links:



                              Don’t miss this one! http://www.candyboots.com/wwcards/mel...

                              Haven’t had enough? Here’s more . . .

                              Link: http://www.lileks.com/institute/gallery/

                              1. Mom's Famous Christmas Ribbon Salad

                                Bottom: Green jello
                                Top; Red Jello
                                Middle: Yellow jello (1 pkg) mixed with cream cheese, mayonnaise, and crushed pineapple from a can. The middle layer comes out creamy white.

                                The whole family loves it.

                                1. Well, maybe not as "unthinkable" as those in your book (which I would love to peruse), but I will admit to making more than four times a year (after an actual craving for it) the snack of lime Jello with creamy cottage cheese and celery mixed in just before it sets up.

                                  Does the book have a title? or was it one of those promo books from General Foods in those days? In other words, I want to see more and be amused (or amazed!)

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: kc girl

                                    I collect vintage cookbooks--there always seems to be a section with "molded fruit salads". Keep your eyes out at thrift stores, garage sales, and estate sales.

                                    A jello mold that has been on my "to make" list (forever) is one that includes dissolved Red Hot candies. Has anyone ever made that--sounds pretty good!

                                    1. re: Funwithfood

                                      The Red Hot Jello is a staple of my cousin's family dinners. And it isn't bad as far a jello goes!

                                    2. re: kc girl

                                      Unfortunately, the cover came off of the book, so I can't tell what it's called. But here's another taste:

                                      Ring Around The Tuna: Lime or lemon Jell-O, grated onion, diced cucumber, celery, pimento, and olives. Place in circular Jell-O mold and chill. When set, fill the middle with tuna & mayonnaise mixed together. To me this sounds absolutely repulsive.

                                      But not as bad as:

                                      Sunset Salad: Lemon Jell-O, add grated carrots and chopped pecans. Then, throw in some crushed pineapple and set! A winning combination!

                                      1. re: Chowderhead

                                        Not quite tomato aspic, are they!

                                        1. re: Chowderhead

                                          We had a something similar to Ring Around the Tuna in my childhood, though thankfully there was no tuna. The lime jell-o had onion, celery, carrot, and green olives mixed in, and yes, there was the top layer of lime jell-o with mayo mixed together. Yes, it is repulsive.

                                          The other jell-o dish of my youth was orange jell-0 spiced with cinnamon and cloves, with mandarin oranges mixed in. For awhile, Mom would alternate these two dishes for holidays. Finally we got it across to her that one was disgusting, and one was a pleasantly spiced and sweet dessert. The spiced orange jell-o "salad" still makes an appearance at all family holidays.

                                      2. I have some great recipes using Jell-O. But now I have a problem that I hope someone can answer. This is an old recipe from my mother for Cranberry Salad. But it calls for 1 large pkg. of raspberry jello. But at the store all of the packages were the same size. I think there used to be a bigger size. So I bought 3 packages. They are 0.3 oz (sugar-free). Does anyone know if a large package would be the same as 2 or 3 of these? I'm making this for Thanksgiving dinner.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: cjmoon

                                          Kraft foods has a website for Jello--google "jello desserts"--they can probably help you. I don't mind Jello at all--it's pretty!

                                          1. re: BangorDin

                                            Thanks! I think I did get my answer. I browsed a few recipes and some say (8 serving size) and some say (4 serving size). My 0.3 oz package says makes 4 servings, so I will use two.

                                        2. And here's a musical ode to a "Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise." Click on the "listen" option to the left of the lyrics.


                                          1. I'm not all that fond of eating jello but it was always interesting to SEE a jello recipe done well. Jello cookbook photos are always impressive, but not good eats (IMO).

                                            1. I wonder how exactly they brain washed people into thinking this was good food. What was the average consumer of jello eating before that?

                                              1. My grandmother use to make me coffee jello served with sweetened condensed milk when I was a kid. Funny thing is Durgin Park has coffee jello on their menu. I ordered it once and the waiter try to talk me out of it, but it brought back memories!

                                                1. I love jello salads and I think I have that cookbook. It was among some yard sale things. Unfortunately, my family doesn't love jello like I do and the elderly aunts who used to bring their best jello recipes to family gatherings have passed on. The softcover cookbook was probably a promotional publication. There are jello flavors I never remember seeing. My MIL made the sunset salad a few times and I thought it was good. Jello was popular around the same time Kool Aid was. Anything in a box that could be mixed with water was new and fantastic. Didn't Bill Cosby promote jello or am I just thinking of one of his skits? I think jello was considered a "healthy" treat. A free jello dessert used to be served at Howard Johnson restaurants. It was simply jello with a dab of whipped cream. College dining halls served jello. Jello was modern. At our local church benefit suppers, there is usually at least one jello mold. Some jello recipes were very elaborate and time consuming to make. I think bizarre recipes were very popular back in the late 50's/early 60's. There was a mock apple pie that people used to make from Ritz crackers. There were cake recipes that required ginger ale or some kind of soda added.

                                                  1. Was just at the beauty parlor and a very old lady came in bearing "7-Up salad" for the owner. Of course we all had to taste it and proclaim it wonderful. A concotion of lemon jello, 7-Up, crushed pineapple and cream cheese! Odd but strangely appealing.