Lemon Jello Salad

This undated recipe comes from a very old photocopy of a type-written recipe card. The front and back of the card were Xeroxed separately and then stapled together. I have no idea how old the original card was, but after tasting the jello salad I suspect 1940’s or 1950’s.

Lemon Jello Salad

  • 1 large package lemon jello
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 cup pineapple – drain and save juice
  • 3 bananas cubed
  • 18 large “marshmellows” – cut in small pieces. 21st-century update: Use 4 cups mini-marshmallows

Dissolve jello in boiling water, add cold water and chill until partially set. Add pineapple, bananas and marshmallows. Set until firm.

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 cup whipped cream (unsweetened)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup pineapple juice (if you do not have one cup juice from pineapple, add any other fruit juice to make one cup.)

Cook sugar, egg, flour and juice together until thick. Add one cup whipped cream. Spread over salad and sprinkle with “greated” cheese.

This jello salad took me two tries but I could probably still use a third to truly get it right. For the purposes of this blog, I’d say the final result was good enough.


Attempt #1

To be honest, this jello experiment was doomed from the start.

The first clue was when my husband laughed at me as I attempted to cut giant marshmallows into tiny pieces with a very dull steak knife. The bits stuck to the blade, to my fingers, the cutting board and to each other.

“Why don’t you just use mini marshmallows?” He asked.

“The recipe says to cut into small pieces.” I answered, flicking my hands in a futile attempt to unstick a gooey wad of marshmallow from between my fingers.

“Did they not have mini marshmallows back then?”

Uhhm…?

It occurred to me that I hadn’t done my research properly before picking this recipe from the pile at random. Usually I go into these things actually knowing something.

It’s just jello, I thought. I’m totally an expert now, how hard could it be?

Turns out it isn’t hard at all. I just was terribly underprepared and my two-month vintage jello hiatus had affected my critical thinking skills.

I gave up the cutting after my third butchered marshmallow and just switched to minis. I shrugged it off because I was already committed to doing this thing one way or another. Nevermind that I had also chosen a very bizarre time to do it, during a 20-minute conversational lull with a visiting relative.

Of all the mistakes I made, the worst was pouring the jello into a silicone cake bundt mold that I have yet to be able to unmold properly. It hasn’t worked any other time I’ve tried, but maybe it might work this time?

Not only did the jello reject the marshmallows during the setting process (marshmallows float and they dry out when exposed to air), but I absolutely destroyed it trying to get it out of the floppy mold. I took pictures anyway.

I didn’t even bother making the topping. Where would I put it, in the hole?

The other side is not pictured because it doesn’t exist.
The base looks like a ring of slightly crunchy teeth

Attempt #2

This time I completely bailed on molding the jello salad, which I should have done in the first place. I also halved the ingredients to fit in a square baking dish.

There is a 50’s-era jello salad called Jello Sawdust that is very similar to this one. It’s roughly the same thing, but Sawdust is typically layered in a cake dish and topped with additional layer of whipped cream/cream cheese.

So, again, I followed the directions with the exception of cutting the marshmallows. One large marshmallow could be cut up into about enough mini-sized pieces to fill a 1/4 cup. So 4 cups of mini marshmallows is probably pretty close to 18 large ones.

A few notes:

  • After dissolving the jello, let it set for about 40 minutes. It could probably go longer, but it needs to only be partially set when adding the bananas and pineapple; we’re not doing layers here. Give it a gentle stir to evenly distribute the fruit.
  • Add the marshmallows, cover, and let it set overnight or a minimum of 6 hours.
  • For the topping, cook on low to medium low heat until it is nice and thick. Stir frequently so the egg doesn’t scramble. Let it cool before adding the cream.
  • I’m not sure if this was supposed to be sweetened whipped cream or not, but I bet that it was just plain hand-whipped whipping cream. It will melt a little when you mix it in with the sauce. Make sure the topping is completely cool or even chilled before spreading it over the jello. Chill again before serving.

A Mini-History-Lesson

After doing some research, I discovered that mini marshmallows have been available for probably as long as regular mass-produced marshmallows. Marshmallow is an ancient food product, but wasn’t mass produced and sold in the well-known cylindrical shape until Alex Doumak patented an industrial processing method in 1956. Through this new automated extrusion process, marshmallow production time was drastically reduced and the product could be sold in large quantities and cut into uniform sizes and shapes.

I don’t know why this recipe says to cut large marshmallows into pieces, since there are other 50’s-era recipes that specifically call for miniature marshmallows. It’s very possible that this recipe pre-dates mass-manufactured marshmallows, back when a person could only buy them in tins directly from a confectioner or make them at home. But if it is indeed from the 50’s, the only logical thing I can think of is whoever wrote this might not have had access to packaged mini marshmallows for some reason. Perhaps the local grocers didn’t sell them yet.


The Verdict

I was pleasantly surprised by this lemon salad. Everyone really liked it, though we could probably do without the cheese garnish.

The flavor’s great, texture is not too weird even with the fruit chunks and it’s not overly sweet. But the real star of the show was that delicious pineapple topping. Because I can’t use half an egg, I made twice as much topping as I needed and ended up just eating some of the leftovers with a spoon. I have no idea what else to put it on; maybe cake or ice cream?

A solid addition to the better end of the edible jello spectrum!

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