Updated: Dec 30, 2022
My wife's grandmother Dorothy "Dot" Farrow Gregory was a formidable yet kind woman who passed this week from Alzheimers. I can remember Dot's hair and clothing were always impeccable and her kind warm spirit was always on display for me. She never failed to hug and kiss me and call me darling. This salad from Dot became part of my wife's repertoire long before we married and a staple of our family's Thanksgiving celebrations and dinners.
When I was a child no Southern hostess would dare have a large Sunday or holiday dinner without a congealed salad. My grandmother and great aunts always had a separate salad plate on the table with a leaf of lettuce and a slice of some kind of congealed salad. As a child that was one of my favorite things. Cherry Jello with fruit magically suspended in a crystalline gel was always a staple of Sunday dinner for the family after church at my grandmother Sara's. My great-aunts Rosalee and Fran were famous for orange and my Great-grandmother Ethel for an opaque green. These seem to be jewels of my family's culinary repertoire. At least as my eight-year-old self thought so!
For some reason molded congealed desserts fell out of vogue during the late 1990's and early 2000's probably due to the trend of scratch made ingredients. It is certainly something we need to bring back into our kitchens for the occasional treat. A congealed salad is a great way not only to bring color to our table but also protein through the gelatin, and fruit as the filling pleases kids and picky adults alike. Congealed salads can also be made more healthy by using fruit juices and plain gelatin instead of artificial colors and sugar in Jello. But let's face it everyone still "has room for Jello", especially at a holiday meal.
Below is Dot's recipe for Cranberry Salad that will make a great addition to any Thanksgiving or Christmas table. Make sure to follow the method exactly, paying attention to the bold items.
1 1/2 cup cranberries
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup celery
1/2 cup boiling water
1 package lemon jello
1/4 cup orange juice (no pulp)
8 oz. crushed pineapple
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans
In a food processor, pulse the cranberries until they are finely minced. Pour chopped cranberries into a bowl and stir in sugar. Let sit for 2 hours and macerate.
Pour the crushed pineapple into a sieve and press out the liquid. Let sit and drain well while you chop the other ingredients. Finely chop the celery and pecans.
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir along with the orange juice. Stir lemon Jello into the boiling water and let dissolve. Immediately, stir in with the other ingredients.
Spray jello mold with vegetable oil. Pour mixture into mold. Let set in the refrigerator overnight. Turn out onto a plate.