We all have those talented friends that make us envy their style as well as their DIY prowess. Today, I’d like to introduce you to one of mine. Liz Gray has impeccable taste, and she is always up for a party. She also happens to be a senior editor for HGTV.com and is one of the lovely ladies behind the blog I Heart HGTV. Liz always manages to bring a little sunshine wherever she goes so when she sent me the recipe for Cranberry Thankagiving Jello with the note that it is usually made in “Grandma Pat’s copper chicken and lobster molds,” I couldn’t help but smile. Of course it is. This retro sparkly dish is delicious, and will also give you an excuse to add a new character to the Thanksgiving table.
My first memories of cookbooks are of my Grandma Pat’s 1950s cookbooks, from Julia Child’s the Art of French cooking to the 1955 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. Each member of my family had their own section they gravitated to: My dad and sister were the bakers, making piled-high fruit pies. I loved the fashion and the almost lacquered look of the food in the photos — have you ever seen a ham shine like that in real life? My mom, though, was all about the aspic chapter. Tomato aspic. Beef consumme. They were all good jelled, she assured us.
I can’t say I’m a fan of either of those, but I am most definitely a fan of her annual Thanksgiving Jello mold, always made during the dead of night on Thanksgiving Eve. Think of an apple-cranberry salad suspended in cranberry jello; it’s equal parts jello mold and cranberry sauce. To bring it full-circle, my mom always uses Grandma Pat’s copper chicken and lobster molds. It tastes better than chicken or seafood gelatin and is much more dramatic with its deep cranberry hue atop lettuce leaves. Here is the recipe, as written by my mom.
Cranberry Thanksgiving Jello
3 packages strawberry Jello (3 oz each)
3/4 bag of cranberries
1 cup of pecans
5-6 tablespoons sour cream
Boil water. Dissolve Jello in 3 cups boiling H2O.
Put 1 tray of ice cubes in measuring cup. Cover with cranberry-raspberry juice to make 3 cups. When ice dissolves, add to Jello mixture. Set about 1/4 of the Jello liquid aside and leave out of fridge.
Put the rest of the Jello into 2-3 molds and place in fridge for 1- 1.5 hours, until somewhat thickened. In the meantime, pulse the food processor to chop apples, cranberries and pecans until finely chopped. Add 3 teaspoons of sugar to this mixture and stir.
When jello is thickened slightly, add the cranberry/apple pecan mix. ( I just blend it in to the top in the mixture, rather than all through it, to leave some plain Jello on the bottom.) Mix the reserved jello with the sour cream (or yogurt) and pour a layer over the top of the fruit and nuts in the Jello.
Return to the fridge for about 4 more hours, or until firm. To unmold, dip mold into lukewarm water just until sides loosen… but not until liquid:-( Unmold quickly on a bed of greens.
VOILA!! There you are!
To reduce recipe: For each packet, you need one cup of boiling water and 1 of cold liquid. The ice is not necessary, but helps it to gel faster. Decrease your additions accordingly. Last year I used too much stuff, so be careful. A nice even layer spread over the top of the jello is best. Then mix in slightly.