Hello Jello

When Fall comes and all the children are in school, it's hard not to feel some nostalgia for my sack lunches of bologna sandwiches and Jell-O pudding cups. As a kid, before we learn how it was originally made, Jell-O was an intriguing substance. Solid, yet liquid it wiggles and jiggles just like the jingle says it would. Sweet and delicious and bright. Just add water... so simple kids can make it themselves.

Jell-O is a truly American desert!

It can now be found at potlucks and parties but how did this futuristic seeming food get its start?

Earlier than one might think. As we know it Jell-O was invented in 1897. But the earliest mentions of eating Gelatin were during the Renaissance. It was considered a delicacy, only attainable by the rich who had servants do the very labor intensive work. Making gelatin used to be an 8 hour long exercise, with a long time in front of a hot stove (and imagine how it smelled), now it only takes minutes. Gelatin, used to be savory and called aspic. Super labor intensive food only for the wealthy as they had cooks and servants to make it for them.  

It is first seen in cookbooks during the Victorian era. The first patent for a gelatin dessert was in 1845, by Peter Cooper, who also invented America’s first steam powered engine. He made the powered gelatin we know today, but it never caught on with him at the reins.  At the time gelatin was being made in sheets or shredded pieces by Knox, Cox (who still makes unflavored gelatin), however in this form it still had to be soaked or cooked as well.  Knox Started making granulated gelatin in 1893, but it was still tasteless and flavorless. This is where Mr. Pearle Wait and his wife May come in. He added the colors and flavor to make it a stand-alone dessert. His wife, May, called the new project Jell-O and the rest is culinary history.

The historical information from this post came from:

Jell-O: a biography

While there are quite a few recipe books for Jell-O in the SLPL catalog I would recommend

Hello, Jell-O!

It has a more modern and high-end take on Jell-O. For example the following Carrot Cake Recipe. From Hello, Jell-O! This fall carrot cake mold features dual layers, one much like the cream cheese frosting we are accustomed to in gelatin form, as well as the carroty and nutty cake layer. This recipe will fill a four-cup gelatin mold. Found on page 23.

First Layer

1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin powder

½ cup cold –carrot juice

½ cup boiling water

¼ cup sugar

1 cup (8-ounce brink) of cream cheese at room temperature

Second Layer

1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin powder

½ cup cold carrot juice

1 cup boiling carrot juice

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup finely grated carrots

½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts

For the first layer, in a bowl sprinkle gelatin over the carrot juice and let the carrot juice absorb the gelatin for 2 minutes. Add the boiling water and stir until gelatin is fully dissolved. Add sugar and do the dame. Next use a mixer to bat in the cream cheese until smooth. Refrigerate until firm. This means the gelatin should stick to your finger if you touch it. 

For the second layer in a separate bowl sprinkle the gelatin over the cold carrot juice and allow the gelatin to absorb for 2 minutes. Add boiling carrot juice and stir until dissolved. Stir in the sugar then the vanilla and cinnamon. Refrigerate until thickened, this means the gelatin should be the consistency of an extremely dense pudding. This will allow the fruit and nuts to be suspended in it.  So fold in the carrots and pecans. Then gently spoon into the mold over the cream cheese layer. Refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours. Unmold and serve.

Now the Magic of Jell-O has all of the classic Jell-O mold recipes we love. And by classic I don’t mean scary 1960’s.

The Magic of Jell-O

But we do have a few scary recipes if you like …

The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Sixties Cookbook

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