Monday, December 21, 2020

"Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise"

No Retro Christmas would be complete without Jello! Jello was invented by Pearle Wait in 1897 in Le Roy, New York. Wait, who was experimenting with combining a cough remedy, a laxative tea, and gelatin, came up with a fruit flavored dessert which his wife, May, named "Jell-O." Lacking the capital and expertise to market his creation, Wait sold his formula to Orator Frank Woodward, a successful medicinal manufacturer and proprietor, for $450 in 1899. After sales were slow and disheartening, Woodward sold the "blankety-blank business" for $35 to Sam Nico. In 1900, The Genesee Pure Food Company launched a very successful marketing campaign that resulted in $250,000 sales in 1902. In 1904, the Jell-O "best seller" recipes rolled off the presses with 15 million booklets distributed, and the rest is history!

At the tail end of the 19th century, the "domestic science/home economics" movement had taken hold of the Victorians, in which they became obsessed with control. The idea of a tossed salad with mixed greens made them cringe, for it was "messy"! Oh my! Instead, they preferred an "orderly presentation," in which ingredients were painstakingly separated, organized, and presented. Thus molded gelatin (Jell-O) salads were born. They put everything in gelatin, from fruit and nuts to mayonnaise and tuna! It was so prevalent, that Pulitzer Prize winning composer William Bolcom composed the novelty song "Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise" for his wife, mezzo-soprano Joan Morris. Bolcom based the song on his experiences playing the piano for women's clubs in his youth, after being fed absurd and unappetizing concoctions, including jello salads. Be warned: This video may induce dry heaving!

Don't worry, this fabulous recipe, which I nicked from my equally fabulous mother-in-law, for "Seven Layer Jello" is neither absurd nor unappetizing! Not only does it look like a beautiful present on your plate, it tastes light and refreshing, and is a MUST for any retro Christmas! Everyone loves it! Honestly, along with Meringue MushroomsPeppermint Bark, and Lacy Nut Cookies, I make this every year and it just wouldn't be Christmas without it! This recipe does require time to allow each layer to set, so plan accordingly! For a chic adults only gelatin dessert, see Wine Jelly with Grapes!

Seven Layer Jello

Makes one 9"x13" pan.

4, 3 ounce packages Jell-O (lime, lemon, orange, and cherry)
2 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
1 pint sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups scalded milk, cooled
1 cup sugar

Lightly oil a glass Pyrex 9"x13" pan. Dissolve the lime jello in 1 cup boiling water, stir. When dissolved add 1/2 cup cold water. Carefully pour into the oiled dish, carefully place in the refrigerator to set.

Meanwhile, bring the 2 cups of milk to boiling. Add the 1 cup of sugar and stir until dissolved. 

Dissolve the 2 envelopes of Knox gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water. Let stand 2 minutes. Add the gelatin mixture to the milk/sugar mixture.

Mix the vanilla extract in 1 pint sour cream. Add to the gelatin/milk/sugar mixture. Beat with an electric mixer until well blended. (I actually just whisk it very well until very smooth.) This is your "white" mixture. Allow to cool to room temperature. Do not refrigerate!*

At this point, the lime jello should be set, you will know it is set when it's "sticky" to the touch. Measure 1 1/2 cups of white mixture and carefully spoon or gently ladle over the lime layer. Gently tilt the pan from side to side to spread the mixture evenly over the lime layer. Carefully place in the refrigerator to set.

Next, dissolve the lemon jello in 1 cup boiling water, stir. When dissolved add 1/2 cup cold water. Allow this mixture to cool to room temperature. When the first white layer is set, carefully spoon or gently ladle the lemon layer over the white layer. Gently tilt the pan from side to side to spread the mixture evenly over the white layer. Carefully place in the refrigerator to set.

When the lemon layer is set, stir the white mixture, measure 1 1/2 cups white mixture, spoon on lemon layer, tilting as before. Refrigerate to set.

Repeat each layer as directed above, using orange, then the last 1 1/2 cups white mixture, and finally the red mixture.

When done, allow the mold to set overnight. To serve, cut into squares. To store, refrigerate covered with plastic wrap. Keeps fresh for several days.

*If you must refrigerate the white mixture and it sets up, gently reheat in microwave about 10 seconds at a time, stirring each time until smooth. Don't let it get hot or it will melt into the other layers!


  1. Love this recipe! It is very pretty. Love this blog!

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