Orange Delight Dessert, 1968

I picked up a vintage cookbook the other day at the local antique store, as well as an unopened roll of 60’s vinyl kitchen contact paper. Of the gelatin recipes this one was the most orange. A perfect visual companion to the vinyl.

Orange Delight Dessert

From Hello Neighbor: 1968 Cookbook by KOA Radio 85. This recipe was submitted by a listener from Aurora, Colorado.

I was feeling really good about this dessert until I added the pineapple chunks and coconut flakes. I am not a big fan of coconut flakes or chunks of fruit in my food, but for authenticity’s sake I had to do it anyway. I also avoid whipped cream whenever possible, but why stop now when we could go all out with this thing?

Turns out that Orange Delight is surprisingly good! An actual delight. The flavor is good; tastes just like orange juice-flavored gelatin with applesauce and pineapple in it. If I were to make this again, I would definitely omit the coconut flakes and I do recommend serving it with whipped cream.

The Rise of Frozen Orange Juice

Of historical note is the use of 6 oz. frozen orange juice. I am not convinced that orange juice concentrate even comes in 6 oz cans anymore. This got me wondering about orange juice and how the flavors have changed over the last 50 years. I was surprised to learn that frozen orange juice was a relatively new and an enormously popular food item in the 1960s!

Pure orange juice does not save well in a frozen state without some kind of pasteurization process. This was a concern for citrus suppliers in the 1930s and 1940s, when they found themselves with a sudden mass demand for citrus as a health food and a canned product that really didn’t taste very good.

Around the same time, the US military had a need for something healthy and loaded with Vitamin C that the soldiers would actually eat. To solve this problem, NRC (National Research Company) scientists figured out how to pasteurize and evaporate the juice, add the extracted citrus essences, flavor and vitamins back in and freeze it into a product that could later be reconstituted into a palatable orange juice. This was called the “cut-back process.” Richard Stetson Morse and his associates, C.D. Atkins and L.G. MacDowell, were tasked with developing the cut-back process and producing the concentrate for Florida Foods Corporation (led by John M. Fox), but the war ended before the new company could ship it out. Undeterred, FFC changed its name to Vacuum Foods Corporation and started selling the first orange juice concentrate in 1946. This new product was called Minute Maid.

Over the next decade, Minute Maid (now the name of the actual company) and concentrated frozen orange juice became an American staple. No more squeezing oranges by hand, just buy it in a can! The convenience and flavor, not to mention the growing prevalence of electric refrigerators in middle class homes, meant that frozen orange juice was going to make its way into just about everything. Even molded gelatin desserts!

To add extra flair, fill the ring with whipped cream!

Sources and Further Reading:

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