Thursday, January 28, 2010

Retro Jell-O Recipes Nos. 62,500 and 62,501: Lime Jell-O with Cucumbers, Onions, and Vinegar

Hey, folks! I’m almost getting serious about these retro Jell-O recipes! Today I present to you two variations on a theme, and these are both definitely “salad” Jell-Os and not dessert ones.

Both involve lime Jell-O, cucumbers, vinegar, and a small amount of onion.

The first recipe was published in the official Jell-O cookbook from 1930 and was the first “salad” recipe listed, on page 16. I should mention that this cookbook announced a brand new Jell-O flavor: “The new, wonderfully refreshing Lime!” (“You will want to buy Jell-O in all six flavors, six packages at a time. Then there will always be the ‘makings’ of a lovely dish on hand.”) Yes, junior, there was indeed a time before green Jell-O.

Just in case you missed the fantastic news, there’s a “note” just before you launch into the recipes:

Above this particular recipe is a lovely illustration of some pret-ty high-class folks. One lady is our heroine; she’s slicing into her monumental jewel-like creation. Another lady behind her has her pretty little nose in the air. Bleeding off the edge of the illustration are two figures in black suits, and another high-class lady’s shoulder. There’s a magnificent coffee urn on the table (puffing out his stainless chest, with arms akimbo), attended by some fabulous coffee cups and saucers. What a fine, gay luncheon this shall be! (I think the message here is: “With Jell-O, you can forget all about the Great Depression.”)

Here’s the recipe, transcribed with great care. My comments follow.

Sea Dream Salad

1 package Lime Jell-O
1 cup boiling water
1 cup grated cucumber
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon onion juice
Dash of Cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt

Dissolve Jell-O in boiling water. Add cucumber, vinegar, onion juice, Cayenne, and salt. Force through sieve. Turn into mold. Chill until firm. Cut in squares and serve on crisp lettuce. Garnish with Hellmann’s Mayonnaise. Serves 6.

. . . Now, is there any law that says you have to cut it in squares? Pffft. I molded mine in little cups!

I have to say, this is a Jell-O technique you don’t see very often in your standard church-ladies cookbook, this idea of infusing your hot liquid Jell-O with other flavors, keeping the Jell-O crystal clear. You add the grated cuke and stuff to hot Jell-O, then strain out the solids. It’s like making cucumber–onion–Jell-O “tea.”

Hmm. I think that most church ladies would see this as a waste of perfectly good cucumber. I think most church ladies would just as soon keep the cuke in the salad.

Aha! Hence the next recipe, which comes from my beloved copy of Cooking with Faith: 1950 to 1975, published in Jefferson City by the Faith Lutheran Ladies Guild.

It’s a contribution from “Miss Ann Kielman,” and appears, amid a wiggly, jiggly bounty of other fine Jell-O recipes, on page 30.

Again, I transcribe it for you, with a few comments afterward.

Cucumber Mold

1 pkg. lime jello [sic]
1 c. hot water
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. vinegar

Mix together and let cool until almost set, then add:

1 c. sour cream
1/4 c. or 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 c. chopped cucumbers
1/2 tsp. grated onion

As usual with these sketchy types of recipes, you’re left to wonder about how finely chopped the cucumbers should be, or how finely grated the onion. But I bet I know what Miss Ann Kielman would say: “Well, as fine as you want them.” . . . I chose a small dice.

So! How Do They Taste?

My curiosity about this very question is what made me make these two recipes. They sound so counterintuitive to us in 2010; I suspect many of you are thinking, “Ugh! Nasty! Jell-O ’n cucumbers ’n onions ’n vinegar!”

Yet these recipes were appreciated enough to appear in these publications. Someone paid good money to print these on paper. The first must have ranked extremely high on General Foods’ taste tests, since it appeared at the top of the salad section where they kick off the new Jell-O flavor—two whole pages before the spectacularly famous “Under-the-Sea Salad.”

And Miss Kielman must have had plenty of folks compliment her on her delicious Cucumber Mold, since she tendered it among her other contributions to her church’s cookbook. (Well, unless maybe it was dishes like this that “kept” her unmarried?)

So here’s the verdict. First, you have to let go of your ingrained notion that Jell-O is for sweet stuff. In fact, you need to let go of the common American idea that fruit flavors aren’t used in savory dishes. But try thinking along the lines of a mango chutney or pineapple salsa, where “savories” like onions and garlic walk down the aisle hand-in-hand with delicious sweet fruits.

Both tasted really good! Sue, in particular, liked them—but you have to realize that Sue is a nut for Jell-O. Always has been. She said it was a bit of a leap to get used to “salty Jell-O”—an exaggeration, I think, though it does kind of describe the effect. The flavors of the two are surprisingly similar.

We both agreed that if you were to pick one of these to serve to company, Ann Kielman’s is much better. First, the milkiness prepares you for something “different”—you know just by looking at it that it’s been modified somehow. The Jell-O cookbook version, by contrast, looks for all the world like “normal” green Jell-O. (Until you inspect it closely and see the cayenne flecks in there.) Unless you’re fully aware of the fact that the sparkling green blob before you is a salad, you might be really, um, surprised.

Another point in the Ann Kielman recipe’s favor: The chopped cucumbers do add a pleasant and welcome texture; their presence helps balance the whackiness of the overall concept.

Meanwhile, I found myself unable to finish my portion of Jell-O’s Sea Dream Salad, mainly on account of the mayonnaise, the garnish. I have to admit that I’m not a fan of mayo, anyway, and this is probably my least-favorite way of having it, ever. Bleah. More like Sea-Nightmare Salad. My sea doesn't have mayo in it.

Tomorrow when we have more of this (hey, it’s just the two of us, so there’s leftovers), I’ll try mashing an avocado and putting that to the side instead of mayo. I’ll bet that would be lots better. Or maybe sour cream. So many options.

I guess this is why there are a hundred thousand different Jell-O recipes, huh!

Bonus Fun Information, Just for You!

Maybe you’re wondering about this “Miss Ann Kielman” who submitted such a delightful recipe to the Faith Lutheran cookbook! Well, she was my Great Aunt Lyd’s BFF. They were both about the same age, so Miss Kielman was probably born around 1905 or so.

Oh! And it’s pronounced “Killmun,” not “Keelman.”

If you’re from around Jeff City and keep your ears pricked up for history, that surname might ring a bell: Kielman’s Pool Hall was opened in 1897 and by the 1930s was run by Ann’s father. It was located just south (uphill) of the ECCO Lounge—actually, the two buildings are attached. There’s a consignment shop there now.

My mom remembers going to Kielman’s with her dad when she was little; they’d sit at the bar together. He’d have a beer, and she’d drink a Dr. Pepper and eat a package of Planter’s Peanuts.

Ann’s mother, mom says, drove a car (which is remarkable for a woman of that vintage, and that’s why I’m relating it), and she was a good friend of my mom’s Great Aunt Maggie (Margaret Renner Burkel Jordan), who lived up on East Ashley. She also drove her own car!

The Kielmans were a longstanding Munichburg family, and Ann—who never married—lived in her parents’ house and continued to live there after they passed away.

So Aunt Lyd and Ann Kielman were lifelong best friends; they worked together for years at the Missouri Public Service Commission, and they both were members—charter members, I think—of Jeff City’s Faith Lutheran Church.

After Lyd got married, and before she and Adolf started having kids, they would take Ann with them on trips. Once (my mom says) they even went together on a trip to Colorado! You have to give Adolf some real credit here for being a nice hubby: How many other young married men would want to go on a lengthy motor trip with their wife and wife’s best friend?

Anyway. I never new Ann Kielman myself, but I sure heard her name a lot when we would visit Aunt Lyd. It’s nice to put these whacky pieces together, and to enjoy her tasty Jell-O salad!


Pat Gstalder said...

Hi Julianna,
I really loved your jello recipes and I wanted to try the second one tonight (I'm not one to waste good cucumbers, either) and sent my hubby to the store to get a couple of ingredients. Well, bless his heart he tries. So, I'll go to the store tomorrow (lol).
I did so love the history of Miss Ann Kielman that you included with these recipes, the pictures from the cook books, and of course the recipes themselves all typed out. (I had been trying to see the first one in the book and breathed a sigh of relief when I realized you had done that. : )
Thank you so much for sharing these. I can hardly wait to try them....I'm 76 so I remember......I remember when "molded" jello salads were just all the rage! Some things never go out of style, right....?
So, kudos,

Julianna Schroeder said...

Thank you, Pat, for your kind comment. I posted this so long ago I had to reread it! I realize my posts could have much better links among them. I have a much better gelatin recipe here, and I hope you'll try it:
(it's actually an *aspic,* but anyone who likes, well, Pace salsa will like it!)
and more on Ann Kielman here:

I love telling stories with recipes. That's at least half the fun!
Thank you again,