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Cranberry Gelatin Mold | Retro Recipe

Cranberry Gelatin Mold | Retro Recipe
3 votes, 4.00 avg. rating (79% score)

Perhaps even more than how to properly cook the bird and what constitutes the perfect mashed potatoes (lumps or whipped? skins or smooth? all-butter or garlic-infused?), it’s the Thanksgiving dessert table that must not, under any circumstances, be tampered with. The featured dishes need not be gourmet or even homemade to make the cut (in fact, it’s been my experience that most desserts have more to do with tradition than taste), but this can lead to some interesting selections. As a prime example, in many families across America (and maybe even yours), no holiday is complete without a wobbly, sparkling red or green gelatin mold.

cranberry mold

Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Cranberry Gelatin Mold

Gelatin, which is made from the collagen in animal bones, has been around as a firming ingredient for centuries and used to be considered a sign of wealth since it was painstakingly difficult and time consuming to render, clarify, and turn into a beautiful molded dessert. Then, during the 1890′s, a New York cough syrup manufacturer decided to pair gelatin with a variety of fruit syrups, and named the resulting inexpensive sugary powder “Jell-O.” By 1902 recipe booklets made their way across the country touting Jell-O as “America’s most favorite dessert.”

While many classic gelatin mold recipes (especially the savory ones) horrify modern cooks with ingredients like cottage cheese, canned peas, and the often unfortunate pairing of lemon gelatin with canned tomato soup, many of the sweeter varieties really aren’t so bad. Yes, pairing a artificial fruit-flavored gelatin with syrupy canned fruit and chopped walnuts or mini-marshmallows sounds like the start to a sugar-fueled stomachache, but an ache has to be better than a halting lurch (I’m looking at you, creamy molded seafood salad!).

Wanting to see what the gelatin mold fuss was all about and with Thanksgiving on my mind, I dug up a recipe for a two-layer cranberry variety and got to work. After dissolving two boxes of cherry gelatin in boiling water, I added a can of whole-berry cranberry sauce and two small cans of crushed pineapple, then a half cup of chopped walnuts. Then resulting candy-colored concoction went into the fridge in a 12-cup Bundt pan for several hours to chill.

cranberry mold

Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Cherry gelatin, whole-berry cranberry sauce, crushed pineapple, and walnuts are in the mix.

The second layer was supposed to be a creamy one — made with more cherry gelatin, cranberry juice, and sour cream. It was a delicate pink color, and after chilling overnight, things were looking good.

gelatin mold

Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Adding the creamy second layer.

But soon they weren’t.

Having a tough time getting the mold to release from the pan after several hours filled upside down over a plate, I used a butter knife to gently loosen the sides. When that didn’t work, I hunted online for advice on how to un-mold Jell-O and read that it helps to partially immerse the mold in a bowl of warm water for 60 seconds. I kept it to 15 seconds, but either the water was too warm or the metal pan absorbed the heat too quickly because when I next tried to invert the mold it splashed and splattered out in a terrific pink explosion.

gelatin mold fail

Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Gelatin mold FAIL!

Turns out the heat melted the gelatin, giving it the messy upper hand.

The next time I tried (no way was a gelatin mold beating me!) I stuck to just one layer — the first one — and bid the sour cream adieu.

cranberry mold

Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
A wobbly, fruity holiday table classic.

Say what you will about the retro gelatin mold (and you will — one of my co-workers revealed to me that it’s a rule in her family that if you want to marry in you’ve got to eat a slice of the mysterious lime-green holiday mold), but don’t say it’s not capable of turning heads. I’m also willing to bet that if your mother, aunt, or grandmother stopped making your family’s mold, you’d soon miss seeing it quiver and shine in the candlelight — even if you’d rather eat lumpy mashed potatoes than take a bite.

Is there a gelatin mold in your family? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Happy Thanksgiving and happy eating!

Cranberry Gelatin Mold Recipe Links

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Aimee Seavey

Author:

Aimee Seavey

Biography:

Assistant Editor Aimee Seavey is a staff writer for Yankee Magazine and assists in the development and promotion of content for YankeeMagazine.com through blogging and social media outlets.
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4 Responses to Cranberry Gelatin Mold | Retro Recipe

  1. Maureen November 26, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    What a fun post to read. Not sure how fun the test cook process was however. The end result is beautiful!

    • Aimee Seavey November 26, 2013 at 11:47 am #

      Thanks, Maureen! I had fun with this one. Just might have to tackle one of the savory ones next. :)

  2. CATHERINE November 26, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

    DEAR AIMEE
    I WILL BE TRYING YOUR MOLD THIS YEAR. I HAVE A RECIPE CALLED “PORTOFINO MOLD.”
    IT’S LOADED WITH SOUR CREAM, PORT WINE AND IT’S QUITE A CHORE. YOU ASKED IF GELATIN MOLDS WERE IN MY FAMILY. I STILL HAVE MY MOMS, THEY ARE COPPER; ONE IS A HEART, THE OTHER A ROUND MOLD. MOTHER ALWAYS MADE US A RED VALENTINE MOLD AND FOR MY FATHER, HE LIKED ORANGE JELLO WITH PINEAPPLE IN IT. THANK YOU FOR YOUR ARTICLE. IT BROUGHT BACK MANY MEMORIES. I WILL SURPRISE HER WITH YOUR RECIPE THIS YEAR.
    CATHERINE
    HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

  3. Nan L. November 27, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    There is a mold that my Mother made and now I make and it’s very similar but instead of pineapple, you add 1/2 cup of finely chopped celery and 2 peeled, finely chopped apples to the black cherry jello, whole berry cranberry sauce and walnuts. It sounds weird but it’s really good!

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