It doesn’t matter if you are a child of the ’50s or a culinary junkie, it seems everyone loves Jell-O at some point in their culinary life.
I’ve been sorting through years of collecting cookbooks and came across a little gem called the “Joys of Jell-O.” First published by General Foods Kitchens, these little books were advertising marvels, espousing all kinds of uses for our favorite brand of gelatin.
If I’m in a fowl mood, I like to tell people how my grandma used to make gelatin by boiling down chicken feet, which she would snatch up after we butchered a flock of old hens. Nowadays, I stay away from such shenanigans and just explain, if asked, that all gelatin is made from collagen, collected as a byproduct of the butchering process.
Which means that true vegetarians do not eat gelatin products. And I don’t even want to get into what constitutes a kosher gelatin because that’s a convoluted process. Rabbis differ on what it means to have a food product so far changed from the original so as to render it acceptable.
Actually, the fact that gelatin is so different from anything else is what attracts and repels us at the same time. But the truth is, when Jell-O first came into being in 1897, it made the housewife’s job much easier once they caught on to the product. Previously, home cooks relied on sheets of prepared gelatin, which had to be clarified by boiling it with egg whites and shells and dripped through a jelly bag before the cook could turn it into shimmering molds — a time-consuming process.
Gelatin is a common ingredient in foods because it is so versatile. It can be used as a gelling agent (as in Jell-O), as a thickener, an emulsifier and a stabilizer. You’ll find it in a variety of foods, from yogurt and chewing gum to gummy bears and marshmallows.
General Foods Corp., the original distributor of Jell-O cookbooks, was bought by the Philip Morris Co., which also owned Kraft Inc. Today, Kraft Foods owns the brand. For more recipes and information on Jell-O, go to KraftFoods.com.
9-by-13-inch baked white cake
1 cup boiling water, divided
1 pkg. (3 oz.) Jell-O strawberry flavor gelatin, or any other red flavor
Pierce cooked and cooled cake with large fork at 1/2-inch intervals.
Add 1 cup boiling water to dry gelatin mix, stir two minutes, until dissolved. Pour red gelatin over cake. Refrigerate three hours.
Frost cake with Cool Whip. Garnish with fresh strawberries and blueberries for a patriotic-themed dessert. Keep refrigerated.
2/3 cup boiling water
1 pkg. (4-serving size) strawberry Jell-O
1/2 cup cold water
1-1/2 tsps. grated lime peel
2 Tbsps. lime juice
2 cups Cool Whip, thawed
8 strawberries, finely chopped
1 prepared graham cracker pie crust
Stir boiling water into dry gelatin and mix in large bowl at least two minutes until dissolved. Add enough ice cubes to cold water to measure one cup. Add to gelatin, stir until ice is melted. Stir in lime peel and juice.
Add whipped topping and stir with wire whisk until well blended. Stir in strawberries. Refrigerate one hour or until mixture is thick and will mound. Spoon into crust.
Refrigerate at least four hours or overnight. Store any leftovers in refrigerator.
1 lb. fresh or frozen cranberries
5 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 pkg. (3 oz. size) lemon or mixed fruit Jell-O
Cook cranberries in the water until skins burst. Mash berries with fork and strain through coarse sieve. Heat strained sauce, add sugar and blend well. Remove from heat and stir in Jell-O until dissolved. Pour into shallow pans, cool to room temperature. Freeze two hours or until almost firm. Beat until fluff. Return to pans, freeze until firm, two to three hours.