Vintage Jello: The Space Age Treat!

Summer is nearly over and soon the holiday season will be upon us.  It’s not too early to begin planning all of the luscious menus you’ll prepare for celebrations with family and friends.   You might be tempted to fall back on perennial favorites like steak and potatoes, broiled asparagus and corn custard.  Yes, those are fine—albeit safe—choices for any hostess with the mostess.  But, to ensure your gathering is the talk of the town, might I suggest something a bit more…oh…daring?  How about a green gelatinous mass with things suspended in it?    Yes, I’m talking about a molded Jello salad!   The jiggles on the plate as it’s passed from guest to guest ensure that everyone will be able to interact and engage with their food, and the mysterious items floating inside will keep them guessing!  It’s modern, sculptural, and fit for an astronaut.  A Space Age treat!


Read on for some fun recipes.  But first, how about a short introduction to Jell-O, from the 1966 recipe pamphlet, Joys of Jell-o:

Jell-O Gelatin first grandly shimmered its way into American dining rooms in 1897.  Just how many brands in your kitchen go back that long?  Very few, you can be sure, and fewer still have continued to grow in popularity the way Jell-O Gelatin has each year.

…Jell-O Gelatin’s long-time popularity comes from many good things.  Its lightness is one—a big one.  Jell-O Gelatin is so light it seems to make any meal sit a little lighter.  Its fresh fruit taste, so much like the fruit that inspired it, is utterly satisfying.  And it’s easy to fix in all kinds of ways—some we’ll wager that have never entered your mind.

The bounty of Jell-O doesn’t end with its lightness, good taste, convenience, and versatility.  Jell-O Gelatin is nutritious and low in calories, just 83 calories per half-cup serving.  It sits as lightly on your conscience as it does on top of any meal.  You can add fresh vegetables or fruit, or even a marshmallow or two, and eat and eat.

…So, why not have some for dinner tonight?  Whether you eat lavishly or just a little, there’s always room for Jell-O!

A montage of vintage Jell-O Desserts. The sliced loaf in the bottom right corner is the Frozen Fruit Salad. Want to try it? The recipe is below.

Frozen Fruit Salad

  • 1 pkg. (3 oz.) Jell-O mixed fruit, strawberry, or lemon flavor
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 can (8-3/4 oz.) pineapple tidbits
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 medium banana, diced
  • 1/2 cup seeded halved grapes
  • 1/4 cup diced maraschino cherries
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts
  1. Dissolve Jell-O and salt in boiling water. 
  2. Drain pineapple, measuring syrup, add water to make 1/2 cup, if necessary.
  3. Stir into gelatin with lemon juice.  Blend in mayonnaise; Chill until very thick.
  4. Fold sour cream, fruits, and nuts into gelatin.
  5. Pour into a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.
  6. Freeze until firm—at least 3-4 hours.
  7. To serve, cut in slices.

Note:  Other fruits that can be used in the Frozen Fruit Salad are: drained diced orange sections, drained canned crushed pineapple, or drained canned fruit cocktail, using a total of about 2 cups fruit.

Vegetable molds. Yikes. Is there any possibility that these things could have tasted good? I mean, are those olives in that Jello ring? I have half a mind to try the Vegetable Trio Loaf as a grand experiment. They don’t look good to eat, but I admit, there is something intriguing about the way they look, sort of like vegetable bits memorialized in plastic for posterity. I’m not including recipes for these molds here, but if anyone is interested in trying them, let me know and I’ll post them.
Marzipan out of Jell-O! These little fruits are super cute! Pictured in the top right corner are Molded Crown Jewel Desserts; the recipe for which is below.

Crown Jewel Desserts

  • 1 pkg (3 oz) each Jell-O orange, cherry, and lime gelatins
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1-1/2 cups cold water
  • 1 pkg (3 oz.) Jell-O lemon gelatin
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup pineapple
  • 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 cups whipped cream
  1. Prepare the three flavors of gelatin separately, using 1 cup of boiling water and 1/2 cup cold water for each.
  2. Pour each flavor into an 8-inch square pan.  Chill until firm or overnight.
  3. Combine the lemon gelatin, sugar, and remaining 1 cup boiling water; stir until gelatin and sugar are dissolved.
  4. Stir in pineapple juice.  Chill until slightly thickened.
  5. Meanwhile, mix the crumbs and melted butter; press into bottom of 9-inch spring form pan.
  6. Cut the firm gelatins into 1/2-inch cubes. 
  7. Blend whipped cream with lemon gelatin.  Fold in gelatin cubes.  Pour into pan.
  8. Chill at least 5 hours, or overnight.
  9. Run knife between sides of dessert and pan, and remove sides of pan before serving.  If desired, spread additional prepared whipped topping or whipped cream on top and sides.  Makes 16 servings.

Note:  For Crown Jewel Mold:  Prepare Crown Jewel Dessert, omitting crumb mixture and pouring mixture into a 3-quart mold or 9-inch spring-form pan.

Hey, I think this Cherry Waldorf Salad looks worth trying. See recipe below.

Cherry Waldorf Salad

  • 1 pkg (3 oz) Jell-O black cherry gelatin
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup diced apples
  • 1/2 cup diced bananas
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  1. Dissolve Jell-O and salt in boiling water.  Add cold water. 
  2. Chill until very thick.
  3. Fold in remaining ingredients.
  4. Spoon into a 1 quart mold, 8-inch square pan, or dessert dishes. 
  5. Chill until firm; unmold.   Makes about six servings.


One of the fun things about reading through old cookbooks is seeing how tastes have changed.  You rarely see molded salads today, for example.   I wonder if, looking back at our time from some distant future, people will say, “Pumpkin Spice Lattes?  Really?”

Until next time…

Jennifer Passariello


Comments are closed.