Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Southern Strawberry Jell-O Salad Recipe

Jell-O salads taste best at church potlucks for some reason.
I grew up on Jell-O salads (a.k.a "gelatin salads", "molded salads" or just plain "salads"). Whatever you choose to call them, Jell-O salads made with some kind of flavored gelatin, canned fruit, whipping cream and often cream cheese and/or Dream Whip whipped topping are a Southern food staple found on many holiday dinner tables, church potluck spreads, covered dish gatherings, and frequently appear at traditional dinner on the grounds.
Jell-O salads are funny things. While not technically a salad per se (as in the healthy green stuff) or even really a first course, Jell-O salads are more often than not lumped into the salad chapter of old church and community cookbooks. This is probably because we Southerner's honestly view Jell-O salads as simply some kind of salad that counts as a vegetable.

Those of you (all three of you, that is) who follow my blog know by now that I have a bit of an addiction to collecting vintage cookbooks. In addition to the stacks that have been passed down to me by my granny's, my mom and family friends, I've also collected quite a few books from yard sales, consignment stores and estate sales. One of my favorite cookbook's is "Green Springs Country Cooking" (1975), a "treasury of old family recipes contributed by friends and members of Historic Green Springs", which is a historic landmark located in Louisa County, Virginia.
In this lovely book, which is a community cookbook in its purest form with recipes proudly donated by members of Green Springs National Landmark, is a wonderful collection of Southern recipes by way of central Virginia. From classics like Hot Virginia Dip, old fashioned Virginia batter bread and Country Captain to squirrel stew, Depression cake (a type of spice cake), and "Virginia-style" tomato aspic, this cookbook is a wealth of classic, old-school, home-spun Southern cooking. There's even recipes for homemade soap, how to roast a whole hog, make your own parsnip wine as well as whipping up your own moonshine with the disclaimer, "Check with your local sheriff before setting up a still." Sage advice. But the very best part of this cookbook in my opinion is that all of the recipes are in the original handwriting of their creators.
In a food world where shiny, food-porny photos must dominate nearly every page of any cookbook hoping to sell its weight in recipe gold, I find books like Green Springs Country Cooking, which harken back to what really matters when it comes to preserving and sharing recipes as well as honoring our Southern oldways through both oral and written tradition immensely refreshing. This book has nary a single photo in it yet it's my go-to when I cook at home. As I sift through more and more community and church cookbooks like Green Springs, I'm discovering that those slick, fancy pants cookbooks made up mostly of photos are exactly that. I much prefer books filled with recipes, tried and true ones created with pride, and ones that I'll actually make on a regular basis.
Speaking of recipes, here's one for a classic strawberry Jell-O salad recipe as it appears in the Green Springs book and this one was contributed by Mrs. Lelia D. Bickers of Standardsville, Virginia. I'm thinking this recipe would be a great addition to any Easter dinner table, and just think how proud you'd be making Mrs. Bickers by serving it.

Strawberry Jell-O Salad Recipe
From "Green Springs Country Cooking" (1975)

Note: I am reprinting the recipe exactly as appears in the cookbook. Home cooks should note that in true Southern cooking form, there is a bit of ambiguity here when it comes to sizes and amounts :)

2 boxes strawberry Jell-O
2 cups hot water
1 large package of frozen or fresh strawberries
1 large can crushed pineapple (with juice)
1/2 pound miniature marshmallows
1/2 pint whipping cream or 1 package Dream Whip
1 large package cream cheese, softened (I am assuming this is 8 ounces)
Chopped walnuts

Dissolve Jell-O in hot water, add strawberries, pineapple and marshmallows. Mix and chill until set. Beat cream or Dream Whip until stiff; add softened cream cheese. Mix until smooth and spread over the Jell-O mixture. Sprinkle top with nuts.

Recipe by Mrs. Lelia D. Bickers

All photos and text ©2013 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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