Jello: Classic Americana Plus a Recipe from Nigella
From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Follow her on Twitter at @frijolita and email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com.
This post originally ran on July 2, 2010.
Note from Matt Rhoades: I am a child of rural Illinois: I know jello. Sometimes I still like to eat it. I just do. You can put most any sort of fruit, vegetable or nut in it on it or around it. It can be a salad or a desert or both simultaneously. Jello comes in many colors and flavors and can be topped with a plethora of toppings including mayonnaise and whipped cream. Cakes are made with jello. At my request, Alejandra Owens prepared this wonderful post on jello, jello-based recipes and their vital importance in 4th of July holiday food.
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I’m from Arizona and I’m half Mexican-American to boot. So I didn’t really grow up with a lot of Americana from the kitchen. For the 4th of July, there was potato salad, BBQ chicken and maybe, if I was lucky, a fruit salad.
But when I moved to the East Coast, I had a lot of friends who spoke of American Flag Jello molds and red, white and blue trifles. This is completely elusive to me. Who spends five hours making an American flag out of Jello?! No. I’m not kidding. That recipe says it takes 5 hours to make. I assume with all that Jello setting, it would take some time.
Of Jello and Flag Cakes
I mean, even Ina Garten of Hampton-based fame has a flag cake recipe! I’ve heard of some other crazy “America recipes” as I guess you could call them, but I’m wondering: What’s the nuttiest flag-inspired food you’ve seen? Will you be making something like this yourself?
Nigella Lawson’s Gin and Tonic Jelly
This weekend, I’d say, if you’re going to do something with Jell-O, you know what I’d recommend? Make Nigella Lawson’s Gin and Tonic Jelly. I haven’t tried it yet–but, oh, I plan on it. And, yes, I see the irony in making a 4th of July recipe from a British food writer.
This is as close to Jello-anything as I’m going to get and I appreciate the thin veil of sophistication that protects me from essentially saying, I want you to make this giant Jello shot. Serve it at your BBQ and watch your family members get tipsy.
After all, it’s a Nigella recipe. So not only can we be sure it will taste good, but we’ll all look extra sexy eating it too. I’ll warn you now, Nigella’s recipe is all in metric measurements. Even in her cookbook it’s like that. So don’t get on me about it in the comments. If you’d like to offer your conversion services, then we can talk!
Have a wonderful holiday, folks!
Gin and Tonic Jelly
- 300ml plus 50ml water
- 300g caster sugar
- zest and juice of 2 lemons
- 400ml tonic water (not slimline!)
- 250ml gin
- 25g/15 sheets of leaf gelatine
- 2 punnets white currants or 3 to 4 punnets raspberries, optional
- 1 teaspoon icing sugar if using raspberries
- 1¼ litre jelly mold, lightly greased with almond or vegetable oil
- Put the water and sugar into a wide, thick-bottomed saucepan and bring to the boil. Let boil for 5 minutes, take off the heat, add the lemon zest and leave to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a measuring jug, then add the lemon juice, the tonic water and the gin; you should have reached the 1,200 ml mark; if not, add more tonic water, gin or lemon juice to taste.
- Soak the gelatine leaves in a dish of cold water for 5 minutes to soften. Meanwhile, put 50 ml of water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, squeeze out the gelatine leaves and whisk them in. Pour some of the gin and lemon syrup mixture into the saucepan and then pour everything back into the jug. Pour into the mold and, when cold, put in the fridge to set. This should take about 6 hours.
- When you are ready to unmold, half-fill a sink with warm water and stand the jelly mold in it for 30 seconds or so. Clamp a big flat plate over the jelly and invert to unmold, shaking it as you do so. If it doesn’t work, stand it in the warm water for another half-minute or so and try again. If you’ve used a dome mold, surround the jelly with white currants (Sainsbury’s sells them in summer, as do many greengrocers’), or fill the hole with them if you’ve used a ring mold. Raspberries are just as good, but dust these with icing sugar — it sounds poncey, but it makes the pale-jade glimmer of the jelly and the otherwise-too-vibrant red of the fruit come together on the plate. The white currants should be left to glimmer, opal-like, without interference.