I had a sudden burst of jello-making energy the other day and found this recipe that only calls for lime jello, a can of pineapple and some cream cheese. Easy.
This recipe comes from a cookbook published by The Courier Times (Newcastle, Indiana) in 1952. There isn’t much background on the book itself, but from what I can gather it is one of a few cookbooks the newspaper published, which were collections of favorite recipes submitted by (likely) staff and readers. It’s possible this book was a compilation of recipes that had been printed in the newspaper, but I looked through the archives to see if this particular recipe was in there and couldn’t find anything.
If you’re into 50’s era food and jello salads (sweet AND savory), then you’ll love The Courier-Times Book of Famous Recipes. I have since stocked up on some ingredients to make a weird little plum jello, so stay tuned for that!
I’ve done a few 50’s jello salads now and what I’ve noticed about the era is that they are generally quite large, require little to no actual cooking skill, and nearly always include a canned food and/or some kind of dairy product like cheese or mayonnaise. The sweet ones do, anyway. The savory salads and relishes were still very popular, and they got a bit weird during this era with ingredients like horseradish, pimiento and onions. I found a Christmas Salad recipe in this same book that sounds particularly off-putting, which I will absolutely be making in December.
- 3 small boxes of lime jello
- 1/2 a can of crushed pineapple (save the juice)
- 3/4 cup pineapple juice
- 3 oz. cream cheese
- 1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
- Whipped cream
- Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
This is not a complicated recipe, but it is surprisingly time-consuming. Do not begin preparing this jello around bedtime.
To make things easier on you, I’ll organize the directions by layer.
Layer ONE (the top)
Prepare a 3 oz. box of lime jello according to the directions. You may want to use the quick-set method to save on setting time, but that’s up to you. If you don’t have all day to wait for jello to set, I highly recommend you do this. Pour it into a large jello mold (6 cup volume should do) and put it in the refrigerator.
Layer TWO (the middle)
Dissolve 1 box of lime jello in a cup of hot water. Add the cream cheese and stir until it melts. This might take a little while if your cream cheese is too cold, and you may need to whisk out the little clumps. It’s probably best to use room-temperature cheese.
Drain the pineapple, keeping 3/4 cup of the juice. Add half of the pineapple and the 3/4 cup of juice to the jello mixture. If you want to include nuts, add them now. Let it cool.
If your first layer is completely set, then scoop your second layer mixture into the mold. However – and this is very important – do NOT add your second layer until it is completely cool. You don’t want to melt or soften your first layer. Refrigerate until completely set.
Layer THREE (the bottom)
Prepare another 3 oz. box of lime jello according to the directions. There is no need to use the quick-set method here if you plan to set it overnight. Let it cool completely. Once the second layer is set, carefully pour into the mold and refrigerate.
Some additional tips
- Don’t aggressively dump your jello layers into the mold. I suppose you could for the first one, but take it easy on the other two. The second one should scoop out just fine, but the third will need to be poured slowly, perhaps even using the back of a spoon to prevent it from going in with too much force.
- Don’t start making a layer until the previous one is already set. The plain lime jello layers take like 5 minutes to make.
- To cut down on cooling time, put your bowl of jello in a larger bowl or tray of ice.
Unless this recipe is your first, you probably know how to unmold by now. But let me tell you how to do it anyway.
Dip the mold in warm (not hot) water for 5-10 seconds at a time. Give it a little gentle shake to loosen the edges. It’s best to set the plate or tray over the mold before you flip it over. Some of these big molds can be a bit tricky to flip gracefully but do your best.
The recipe says to serve this on lettuce. I considered unmolding the whole thing on lettuce but didn’t, which is good because that would have been terrible. Instead, slice it and set the slices on lettuce. My bundt mold shape made the jello slice a bit top heavy so it kept falling over.
If you want to use dressing, which you should if you’re truly committed, mix some whipped cream and “salad dressing” together. I’m certain Mrs. Ralph Leigh didn’t mean thousand island dressing or vinaigrette when she wrote this recipe. The dressing being referred to is most likely Miracle Whip, which is a cheaper alternative to mayonnaise that is technically considered by the FDA to be a dressing. In the 50’s, most housewives knew salad dressings (especially for fruit and jello salads) were mayonnaise or Miracle Whip based. I used mayonnaise because I try to avoid using Miracle Whip in my everyday life so I didn’t have any on hand.
Mix equal parts whipped cream and mayonnaise in a small bowl and put a scoop on the slices, not on the entire jello. You really don’t need much, just make it in small batches as needed.
There was a bit of a snafu with the bottom layer after unmolding. It was probably a combination of my ill-fated attempt to perfectly center the unmolded jello on the tray for pictures and the fact that the bottom layer just couldn’t bear the weight of the other two for too long. Some people add plain gelatin to the mixture in order to make the mold extra firm for presentation and slicing, but I don’t because I’m shooting for 100% accuracy here.
Regardless, this was a pretty good jello salad. Like many 50’s salads it tasted a bit like church funeral food, but my husband liked it and I didn’t mind it at all. I personally prefer creamy jello over the standard plain, but the three layers worked together nicely. The middle layer had the most flavor, but I think the two layers of plain lime jello balanced it out really well, especially with the dressing.
This was a decent jello. Not mind-blowing, but good. If I were to start a rating system, which I am literally doing as I type, I would give this one a 3 or 4 out of 5 molds. 3.5 jello molds. A solid score.