Originally posted on October 17, 2009
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I’m wimping out, that the Jell-O recipes I’ve posted so far have been entirely too palatable. I’m under no illusions about this blog. I know that on some level it’s like the Jackass of through-cooking blogs, and what readers want to see are weird things suspended in Jell-O and detailed descriptions of my attempts to eat them.
Those posts are coming, don’t worry. But first, Bryan and I are getting ourselves psyched to take them on. Some of the recipes in The New Joys of Jell-O really are that bad – memorably bad, PTSD bad.
And that brings me to Molded Tomato Relish. Actually, Molded Tomato Relish wasn’t all that bad (Bryan disagrees with me on this), but it happened to be the first savory Jell-O I did, so it haunts us.
In a recent comment thread in my Facebook feed, in response to this (Buzzfeed, sorry) link, a friend of a friend remarked that jellied tomato actually sounds interesting. I had similar thoughts when setting out to make Molded Tomato Relish. Well, not so much “interesting”; more like “mostly harmless”. This is a simple one, combining a package of lemon (or strawberry – ick) Jell-O with a 16-ounce can of stewed tomatoes, a half teaspoon of salt, and a tablespoon of vinegar. Until I looked at the book just now, I had a vague recollection that there was some other seasoning involved, but that must have been wishful thinking. The book says to use the tomato can as a mold, but screw that. I had recently bought some new molds, and I was eager to use this one, which happened to be just the right size for this recipe.
Instead of making Jell-O the usual way with water and then suspending the tomato in it, the recipe says to heat the stewed tomatoes to boiling, simmer, and then add the Jell-O powder and other ingredients. You can see in the photo that the Jell-O is much less obvious in this dish than it is in other such dishes. The main advantage to this is that it’s denser and unmolds more easily than your typical Jell-O mold, so at least it turned out looking good for the photo.
Note that I set up the photo with the toys attacking the molded dish before we actually tasted it. I just thought it was funny, and did not realize how prescient this food styling decision would turn out to be.
I cut small pieces for Bryan and me. We each spooned off a bit. We may have counted to three before tasting in unison. As we chewed, our faces took on perplexed expressions, and then suddenly, again in unison, we burst out laughing. It was laughter of dismay and astonishment, with perhaps a slight hysterical edge. Man, that was some bad Jell-O.
I think the vinegar was supposed to cut the sweetness of the Jell-O, but it didn’t. Instead, there were three different flavors not only failing to blend together but outright refusing to get along at all. It was like the gustatory equivalent of a kung fu fight scene in a cheap Asian B-movie as featured on Uncle Morty’s Dub Shack, funny and chaotic and cringeworthy all at once.
We made some pithy, disparaging comments that unfortunately neither Bryan nor I can remember now. Bryan does recall that he was going to try to salvage it somehow (this was early in the original Project, before we gave up on our rule not to waste food), but it ended up sitting in the fridge for a few weeks before we finally tossed it.