red salad (jello and fruit salad that’s yummy, not repulsive)
If you’re like me, you’re totally suspicious of jello salads, as a general matter. Most of the time, I heartily concur with the ever-wise Sophia Petrillo, who in an especially memorable Golden Girls episode, once said “I hate Jell-O. If God wanted peaches suspended in mid-air, he would’ve filled them with helium.” But sometimes I embrace Jell-O. Thanksgiving is one of those times.
My grandmother raised 4 children who are all serious Thanksgiving food aficionados, and are pretty particular about having certain things on the table ever year. They wound up this way because she spoiled them with deliciousness. This red salad, one of my favorite traditions, is actually only one of the 10-12 dishes she served every year. In fact, it’s only one of the two jello salads she typically served. The other, “green salad,” is something I barely remember, and my dad hates it (his sisters love it, of course), but the red salad – the red salad, we still make every year.
And it’s yummy. The proportion of real foodstuffs to jello is infinitely higher than the jello bowl with random floating fruit which so disgusted Sophia Petrillo, and I think that’s what makes the difference. The recipe below is more of a general guideline. Tweak it all you want to suit your tastes and/or your family’s tastes.
Also, don’t use my photo as an exact picture of what yours should look like. I put too much liquid in mine this year, and after a very confusing but ultimately illuminating conversation with my Aunt Jenny just now, I realized my error (I knew something was wrong but it tasted the same so I couldn’t figure it out until I realized it was the texture that was different). Yours will look less liquidy and more like what my grandmother served.
Courtesy of my grandmother (via my aunts)
- 2 boxes of Black Cherry jello
- 20-oz can crushed pineapple in its natural juice (not in syrup)
- standard bag of frozen or fresh cranberries
- 1-2 cups pecans (depending on your love or non-love of nuts)
- 2-3 apples (preferably a nice mix of green and red ones, like you’d use for a pie – please shy away from Golden Delicious or Red Delicious, as they’re too soft. plus anything that needs to have “Delicious” in its title is trying too darn hard)
First, clear a place in your fridge that’ll fit a 9 x 13 pan comfortably, without you having to put anything on top of the pan because that’ll mess up the salad and make it less aesthetically pleasing. This will ruin Thanksgiving, at least according to some of the lovely people with whom I share my DNA.
Pour the Jello powder stuff into a big bowl. Mix in 2 cups boiling hot water. Stir with a fork, scraping the bottom, until all the powder has dissolved. Let sit for two minutes as you open your can of pineapple juice. Drain it into a liquid measuring cup and set the can aside for a bit later. Add enough cold water to the pineapple juice to get 2 cups of cold liquid. Stir into the jello mixture until well-mixed.
Let that sit for a minute as you chop all your ingredients. Dice the apples, and roughly chop the pecans and cranberries (or put them in a food processor and pulse several times until they look roughly chopped – the preferred method). Mix those ingredients in with the Jello and finally add the crushed pineapple. Stir and pour into a 9 x 13 pan. Let set for several hours or until perfectly firm.
(As a side note, you can skip the mixing bowl step and do all the mixing in the 9 x 13 pan. I like the idea of less dishes, but I always spill stuff if I do it that way.)
Serve with the main course, if your family likes cranberry dishes with the main course, or as a dessert with whipped cream. Apparently, my grandmother served it on a leaf of lettuce on crystal plates, but I am not yet at that fancy of a phase in my life so I can only aspire to that level of classiness.