Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Jello Salad and Some History

Ever wonder where Jell-o came from? What makes it actually "jell"? Knox Gelatine was invented before Jell-o by Charles Briggs Knox in the late 1800's when he saw how much work it was for his wife Rose to make aspic for jelled dishes. He established the Knox Gelatin company to make flavorless granulated gelatine, which is still a staple in pantries today.

The discomfiting reality is that gelatine is derived from the connective tissue and bones of animals. You know, that jelly like substance that pools under a roasted chicken when it cools? That's gelatine. Up until his invention women toiled for hours boiling calves feet to make jelly or aspic. Here is a recipe in case anyone is tempted to make the original. Veal was a very common cut of meat in those days so calves feet were not to rare. Where we get calves feet today.....dunno. I'm just has happy to buy a box of Knox. After his death Rose went on to become one of the most successful business women in New York.

In our modern convenience culture we are so divorced from where our food comes from and how it gets to the grocery store, that we never give it a passing thought. Knox and Jello are just there. Just like steaks and chicken drumsticks magically appear in shrink wrapped Styrofoam trays. Not so in this 1933 book of Knox Dainties. They gave homage to the source, calves... in charming drawings on their packaging. They also seem to give some credit to a couple of cherubic black and white children cooks.

Jell-o, the concept of flavored and sweetened gelatine was invented by Mary Wait and her husband who sold it to another person and so on. Eventually the company became a part of General Foods in the interesting history linked here There were some flavors that they experimented with that thankfully went away. Chocolate Jello?

The salad that I am presenting here is always a hit at BBQs and pot lucks. I often get requests for the recipe. It is not sweet and is often mistaken for a dessert which it is not. The first time I had it was at a special dinner hosted by my employer in the early 1970's. Mary Vorhees was the owner of the only local answering service in Paradise, California and I was one of the operators. We used the old style PBX machines like this one where you would plug in the wires and connect the two parties weaving the connections back and forth.

I felt like I was in a 1930's movie.....very retro. Mary was also a retro lady being about 60 years old (at least) in 1970. Her dinner parties were relics of a finer gentler age with all the niceties and formality that we hardly ever see today. She even had a maid to serve for these occasions. Crystal glasses for water and wine. Fine linens, candles and flowers. Translucent porcelain dishes and coffee cups for after dinner.

This salad was the first course followed by soup, then the entrees and dessert and coffee. Each person had an individual dainty moulded green salad on a leaf of butter lettuce. The moulded salads were decorated with beautiful vines and flowers of pastel tinted cream cheese piped around the bases and at the peaks of each mound of jelled salad. They were so lovely that we felt guilty eating them. I'm glad I did and immediately asked (what nerve!!) for the recipe and have had it ever since....almost 40 years.

Springtime Salad

2 packages Jello lime gelatin 3 0z packages
2 cups very hot water
1 large can crushed pineapple (not drained)
2 tsp grated horseradish

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

1 cup heavy cream, whipped stiff

Dissolve the lime Jello in hot water stirring well. Cool in the refrigerator and check periodically for it to begin to jell. This can take about 15 to 3o minutes. Stir it a bit occasionally to check and when it has the consistency of egg whites it is ready to add the other ingredients. Watch it carefully as it will start to jell almost all at once and if you wait too long your salad will be chunks of green jello instead of a beautiful creamy fluffy green concoction.

Meanwhile, while waiting patiently (or not so patiently) for it to jell, incorporate the horseradish into the mayonnaise with a small whip or fork. Even if you are tempted to, DO NOT LEAVE OUT THE HORSERADISH. You could cut it down to 1 1/2 tsp (you wimp), but if you leave it out the salad tastes boring and awful. When ready stir in the mayonnaise, the pineapple with juice and the walnuts.

Fold in the whipped cream with a spatula and pour the salad into a 2 quart mould or individual moulds for the fancy presentation. Chill until firm or overnight.

Or can do like I do and pour it into any 2 quart bowl that you have handy and scoop it out when ready. Plop. Obviously, I'm not quite up to the presentation that Mary had created, but it still tastes great.


viagra online said...

I really have not idea where jello came, but everyday I learn something new. BTW, I made this recipe two days ago, and the result was awesome. It's tasty.

Anonymous said...

great post