Gelatinous Mass, My Family’s Holiday Tradition

Jell-o Mold

I apologize for neglecting the blog for the past week. I’ve been visiting family in Florida, still am in fact. I wish I could share the secrets to the fabulous turkey I made on Thanksgiving, or an old family recipe for stuffing or pumpkin pie. But, unfortunately I can’t do that. While I have offered, or begged to be more precise, to host Thanksgiving, my mom and aunts refuse to pass the torch. And here in Florida I had no way of even contributing a side dish or dessert.

Dissolving in hot water

Fear not. I will share a favorite recipe of my family’s, one that is present at nearly every gathering, everything from birthdays to Rosh Hashana to Thanksgiving. Yes, it goes against my general food philosophy, using the opposite of fresh, natural ingredients (helloooo, Sugar-Free Jell-O powder and Cool Whip Lite!), but every foodie needs to allow some exceptions to her rules.

Cooling with ice

Originally, my aunt who hosted Thanksgiving turned down my mother’s offer to bring the Jell-O Mold, saying it would be redundant with the cranberry relish (I know, what?). Anyways, she quickly caved to the pressure, my mom brought her dish and Thanksgiving was saved!

Adding Cool Whip

To fully grasp the significance of my mom’s Jell-O mold, you need to understand that it’s one of the few things she makes really well that my more cooking-adventurous Aunt Jeri just can’t master (that and matzo balls – my mom makes the best balls of anyone I know). Just to clarify, my mom isn’t a bad cook, just not one that I would call great. But she has a few items that are simply the best: matzo balls, kugel, sweet and sour meatballs, and Jell-O. At home my mom even has a special “Jell-O spoon,” a large slotted spoon made from white plastic that has been stained pink throughout the years from countless Jell-O preparations.

Pouring into the mold

You also need to understand my sister Marci’s obsession with Jell-O, and her subsequent hatred of The Chicago Tribune’s columnist John Kass who has published articles ranting about his disdain for the “gelatinous mass.” Marci could eat Jell-O every day and it’s a must-have when she’s sick, even more than chicken noodle soup. For her especially, no holiday would be complete without it.

So, the day before Thanksgiving I watched my mom make Jell-O in her under-equipped Florida kitchen. And I noticed a few advantages of the dish: it requires just three ingredients and uses only a large spoon, large bowl, liquid measuring cup, hand-mixer or whisk, and bundt-type mold pan. That’s it! A delicious side dish or dessert that can be made just about anywhere.

Marci\'s Thanksgiving Plate

Jell-O Mold

2- 0.6 ounce boxes Sugar-Free Strawberry Jell-O

4 cups boiling water

3 1/2 cups ice water

8 ounces Cool Whip Lite, defrosted

Non-stick cooking spray

1 quart strawberries, hulled and quartered

Empty the Jell-O packets into a large bowl. Add the boiling water and stir until dissolved, about two minutes. Then stir in the ice water (add half ice cubes to speed up the chilling but be sure to melt completely). Place the bowl in the refrigerator until the Jell-O is partially set and slightly thickened, about three to four hours.

Add the Cool Whip to the bowl and mix until well-combined. Coat a 10-12 cup bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the Jell-O mixture into the pan and refrigerate overnight until completely set. To serve, turn out the mold onto a serving platter and garnish with the strawberries.

  • [...] obviously consulting Jackie’s blog (this blog actually). I told my mom that she had to make her Jell-O mold because I don’t believe in a holiday without it and she also offered to bring my favorite challah [...]

  • Taylor posted: 12 Sep at 8:36 am

    I was looking for something light I could make for desert for the next family gathering and came across this post.

    This fits the bill to a T.

    The family loves Jello, whip cream, and strawberries so this is sure to be a hit.

    Thanks for posting

  • [...] menu. We kept a few family staples that I delegated to my mom (green bean casserole and her Jello-mold, because it wouldn’t be a holiday without her Jello), and I took on the [...]

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