I recently acquired this great book – more of a pamphlet, really – called What You Can Do With Jell-O. It was published by General Foods Corporation in 1936.
What’s great about this little book is it goes through the step-by-step process of 6 types of jello creations, as well as how to garnish, make designs and un-mold properly. Only 5 of the 26 pages actually contain recipes. Surprisingly, I haven’t actually seen another book that is focused more on the process and jello facts than the recipes themselves. My kind of book!
This booklet is full of interesting recipes to try, but I thought I’d start with the most basic jell-O whip. 1930’s jello recipes tend to be on the simple yet delicate side, often with an elegant presentation. They do sometimes have some strange ingredients in them, but they’re not as large, sweet and heavy as, say, the 50’s and 60s jello salads.
The 1930’s was an era in which a lot more women were working outside the home and new kitchen appliances like the refrigerator were becoming widely available, making life a bit easier for everyone, but especially busy housewives. A quick little dainty treat like this one would have been an ideal make-ahead dessert.
Unfortunately, I did not have any cherry jell-O on hand so I broke my own rule by replicating a historic recipe without using the exact ingredients. Of course, this rule only applies where ingredients still exist, which in this case they do. I could lie and say I used cherry and not strawberry, but I would know.
Still, there is absolutely no reason you couldn’t just pick any jell-O flavor and whip it, which was probably the point of the recipe being in this booklet in the first place.
Strawberry Jell-O Whip
- 1 package strawberry jell-O (3 oz.)
- 2 cups warm water
- Strawberry and/or cool whip to garnish (optional)
- Dissolve the jell-O in the warm water. Stir a bit. The book specifically says elsewhere to use warm and not hot water, so use warm water.
- Let it chill until cold and syrupy. There is an instructional page (see below) for jello whips that explains what syrupy means. It should be thick but still liquid.
- Use a hand mixer, whisk or a rotary beater (if you have one) to whip the jell-O for about 6 minutes or until the entire thing is whipped- no liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Be sure to do this over ice by setting the bowl in a pan or larger bowl full of ice/ice water.
- Scoop or pour into small glasses, bowls or even a mold if you want to.
- Chill and serve with or without the garnish of your choice.
A couple notes:
- I did this twice because I wasn’t sure if I did it correctly the first time. I didn’t know if I let it chill long enough to get to the syrupy stage. The second time I waited a bit too long and the very bottom was setting but it was still syrupy on top. Just keep checking until it’s thick but still a liquid all the way through.
- I whipped this by hand with both a whisk and a fork and with a hand mixer. By far the best result was with the hand mixer. If you have a rotary beater definitely use that, otherwise stick with a hand mixer. Use the lowest setting and mix for about six minutes or so until the jell-O mixture has doubled in size and is basically all foam.
I am not 100% convinced this turned out exactly how it was supposed to, but it was light and spongy like the instructions described so I’m satisfied with the results. The texture was almost like a firm version of cappuccino foam (obviously it tastes better than that!) but I did like it. Actually, everyone in my household enjoyed it. We liked it even better with a scoop of cool-whip on top, which added a bit of creaminess to balance it all out.
I’ll definitely be making this again, partly because all you need is water and a box of jell-O, but mostly because it’s the only vintage jello I’ve made so far that my very picky young son genuinely likes. Jello jigglers don’t count.
In case you’re interested in giving this or another more elaborate whip a try, here’s the whole page of Jell-O whip recipes: