Memory Lane: Cherry Burgundy Dessert
This week we’re at number two in the countdown – that is, this is the second-to-last recipe. Wow. The end is nigh.
We’ve finally reached the end of Memory Lane with Cherry Burgundy Dessert. I don’t really remember it, for the most part, except for buying the wine. The “Burgundy” in the name is not meant to be descriptive of the color of the dish, or some sort of inept metaphor. This is one of those recipes that include wine as an ingredient, which we’ve tended to like overall because wine cuts the sweetness of the Jell-O and lends a more sophisticated flavor to it. This one calls for “Burgundy or Port Wine”, so we went to our then-favorite liquor store, Downtown Wine and Spirits in Somerville, to get some. The guys at Downtown know and care about their wines, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when, upon hearing what I wanted it for, Jeff wouldn’t sell me a burgundy. He recommended a cheap pinot noir instead, and since I know very little about wine, I just bought what he recommended. This was well before our neighborhood hipster liquor store opened; I suspect the guys at City Liquors would be a lot more chill about the whole thing.
(In an interesting coincidence, this week I read a nice piece of food writing in Vanity Fair about tasting Trump wines. The conclusion is unsurprising, and I suspect Jeff and the Downtown crew would not deign to carry the Trump vintages.)
Apart from buying the wine, this recipe is pretty simple. I prepared a single batch of cherry Jell-O in much the usual way, dissolving it in a cup of boiling water, and cooling it with a half cup of the pinot and a quarter cup of cold water. I chilled it until thickened and then stirred in a can (roughly eight ounces) of sliced peaches. (Strangely, the recipe did not incorporate the juice in which the peaches were canned, which seems to be the norm with this type of recipe.) I chilled it until firm in my three-cup mold, and garnished it with Dream Whip spiced with a dash of cinnamon.
According to my notes, we gave this one a single “nasty”, though we came close to giving it two because the peaches just weren’t very good. Otherwise, the flavors blended relatively well together, and it was overall inoffensive.
The mold I used is kind of a strange one, because the shape (maybe a bit top-heavy?) seems to allow the gelatin to spread after it’s turned out. The resulting jelly dish can end up resembling a sea creature, which is probably why Cherry Burgundy Dessert reminded me of a visit I’d recently made to the Boston Aquarium with one of the grad students from the Lab. I’m sure that pleasant association contributed to my relative enjoyment of the dish.
I know that not everyone celebrates (or enjoys) this festal season, so whatever you’re up to, I hope it’s merry and/or peaceful. I’ll be back on New Year’s Eve to end 2017 in style with the very last recipe from The New Joys of Jell-O…
Virgin Recipe: Richlieu Mold
How I love the recipes that pose questions! The obvious one for Richlieu Mold is what, if anything, is meant by the name. I thought that possibly this is a classic dessert modified for Jell-O, along the lines of Peach Melba. Alas, Mr. Google turned up little in the way of explanation. I found a few versions of something called Bombe Richlieu, which seems to be a rum-and-coffee-flavored frozen dessert that bears little resemblance to Richlieu Mold. An image search on “bombe Richlieu” turns up a bunch of photos of battleships. Now there’s something to ponder…
The base of Richlieu Mold is “any red flavor” Jell-O. I went with cherry, partly because I’m getting a little tired of strawberry, but also because one of the ingredients is cherries and I didn’t want to throw too many different flavors in there.
I’m calling this an Orange Boycott recipe because, even though orange Jell-O is in no way involved, the other fruit ingredient is, officially, orange sections cut into chunks, and there’s supposed to be a couple of tablespoons of orange juice in the Jell-O liquid. Anyway, it just feels fitting, now that we’ve passed the 100-day mark (and the “100 days since the Women’s March” point), to make a gesture like this.
As a substitute, I used canned pineapple chunks, and two tablespoons of the juice from the can. I like pineapple.
The recipe includes a topping, which can be either Dream Whip or Cool Whip (I chose Dream Whip because that’s what Bryan prefers, although to my mind each is creepy in its own special way) mixed with toasted slivered almonds. I toasted the almonds myself, and that was probably the most pleasant part of making this recipe, because toasting almonds smell nice, and it felt good to have the oven going earlier this afternoon on what turned out to be a chilly day – strange, because yesterday was quite warm and humid.
Not surprisingly, the gelatin part is just fruit suspended in Jell-O, so the prep was pretty routine – make the Jell-O as usual, using the canned cherry and pineapple juices instead of cold water, thicken over an ice water bath, fold in the fruit, put it in the mold and chill until firm.
For some reason, the Jell-O was quite stubborn about coming out of the mold this time. (Yes, I remembered to lube the mold!) It wouldn’t unmold until it had been warmed in a water bath to the point of being definitely melty, so it came out looking untidy. I hate when that happens.
For eating it’s a perfectly decent dessert, although I can’t quite get over my particular squeamishness about canned cherries. I mean, I ate them, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience. The pineapple chunks are fine in this, possibly better than orange chunks would have been. I prepared the Dream Whip with almond extract instead of vanilla extract, and the extra almond flavor goes well with the gelatin. One small gripe is that the toasted slivered almonds are an odd textural addition to the dish. I found that I had to be conscious of chewing each mouthful thoroughly so that I wouldn’t end up choking a bit on inadequately masticated almond bits. Bryan didn’t have this problem, though, so it was probably just me being lame.
Bryan declared that the cherry flavor was overwhelming, and maybe it was – but better that than orange.
Virgin Recipe: Brandied Cherry Ring
Hello. My name is Terra, and I’m a procrastinator.
It’s a problem I’ve had as long as I can remember. I was one of those kids who’d wait until after supper to start on a school project that was due the next day. I still remember one horrible night when I was in fourth grade, when I was supposed to make a dish that represented my ethnic heritage to bring to school and share with my classmates. Since I’m several generations away from my immigrant ancestors, the only thing my mother could think of was petit-fours as a nod to my French ancestry, and she left me to try to make some from scratch from a recipe. I’d never made cake or frosting from scratch before, so I was up ridiculously late for a ten-year-old. I was exhausted the next day at school, and the petit-fours turned out awful. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson after that, but there were late-night paper-writing sessions and study all-nighters right through my school years.
Brandied Cherry Ring brought out all the old procrastinating instincts. Sometimes I procrastinate because I have a bit of a perfectionist streak. Sometimes I procrastinate because I dread doing something. This was mostly the latter case. Mainly it was the cherries; as regular readers of NJoJ may recall, I don’t really like cherries. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about the brandy, either. We only keep it around for cooking; I never drink the stuff.
This recipe bears an uncanny resemblance to Cherry Chiffon, except that the liquid from the canned cherries goes into the Jell-O, and instead of Cool Whip the creamy part of the bavarian layer is Dream Whip. Then, of course, there’s the brandy. There isn’t a lot of it in the recipe, just a third of a cup that gets “heated” and poured over the cherries, which then sit for “about 30 minutes”. Something about the smell of the brandy was disturbing. It was less a “Proustian memory” and more of what’s commonly referred to these days as a “trigger”-
[ ] …
And I’m back. I just went to YouTube to put on a Fallout playlist because Pandora keeps stopping dead in the middle of a song, and I got sidetracked catching up on Jenna Marbles, and then I decided to treat myself to a viewing of the Mint Royale “Blue Song” video, but I’m finally back, swinging along to “Jingle Jangle Jingle” and hopefully ready to carry on with the Jell-O.
After soaking the cherries, the brandy/cherry liquid gets added to the watered-down canned cherry juice. The end result is about one and two-thirds cups room-temperature liquid, which gets added to a double batch of hot cherry Jell-O. This, I think, is where the recipe kind of goes wrong, making a double batch instead of two single batches. The recipe says to thicken the Jell-O, add the cherries to half of it, put the Jell-O/cherry mixture in a six-cup ring mold, and chill it until set but not firm. I put the Jell-O/cherry mixture in the mold in the fridge, but meanwhile I had the other half of the Jell-O still thickening over an ice-water bath that I had to work with before it got too much thicker. I added half a prepared batch of Dream Whip to that, and thickened it some more over the bath to kill some time, until it got quite viscous and I knew I had to add it to the mold whether the cherry layer was firm or not.
Well, the cherry layer wasn’t, quite, as you can see in the photo. It looks like the cherries stopped the bavarian layer from sinking all the way to the bottom of the mold. I think it would have come out more neatly if I’d made the layers as separate batches, which is how Cherry Chiffon was done.
I do like the added depth of color from the cherry juice, and the slight blending of the layers looks cool. Since I had an extra cup of Dream Whip, I took the opportunity to practice my piping-bag skill. The decoration makes this mold look kind of like a crown, but while I was doing this there was a faint aroma of “cheap dive bar” coming off of the mold that contrasted weirdly with the look of the thing.
When Bryan and I finally got around to tasting this after dinner, it proved to be not as bad as I was expecting. The texture of the canned cherries was unfortunate, as always, but the flavor wasn’t too bad. The brandy was almost undetectable, except that it was there in the cherries like a hazy, distant memory.
Bryan’s assessment: “Meh.”
Memory Lane: Ported Cherry Dessert
I hope your hiking shoes are all broken in by now, because we’re going to be spending a good bit of time treading down Memory Lane from now, past the holidays, and on through my birthday in January. (I have big plans for the Big Five-Oh that shall be revealed in due course, but they don’t have a lot to do with Jell-O.)
I do vaguely remember Ported Cherry Dessert, because it requires actual port wine, and I happened to have a bottle of it on hand, courtesy of an actual Portuguese person.
At the time that I was working on the original iteration of the Project, the Lab in which I work was heavily involved in the first phase of the MIT Portugal Program, collaborating with researchers in Portugal and participating in the supervision of the work of Portuguese doctoral candidates. For a few years, at any given time there would be at least one or two Portuguese students in the Lab for a semester or more at a time, enjoying our particular version of “the MIT experience”, and we would regularly host Portuguese faculty for shorter periods. One of them gave me this bottle of port. It’s nothing special, but a decent wine, and I appreciated that A– thought of me (a mere administrative assistant), so I felt mildly guilty for using it in a Jell-O dish.
The MIT Portugal Program has shifted focus somewhat in the second phase, and apart from one research project that was pending for years, our involvement now is minimal. However, MIT is generally a pretty “international” environment, and we still have a lot of non-U.S.-Americans in the Lab, which has made the election more engaging as we Americans have to think about it carefully when we talk with them about it. As it turns out, the outcome been rough on all of us.
I went to bed around 10:30 on the night of Election Day, as things were starting to look bad for Clinton, so I wasn’t shocked at the result when I tuned into NPR the next morning. What I hadn’t been expecting was the deep sense of shame that I felt. Along with the recent Trump news stories (the Access Hollywood recording and assault accusations, his refusal to release his tax returns with all sorts of lame excuses, his campaign rhetoric) I had been paying attention to the reports of how he’s been doing business for decades (e.g., abusing the legal system to avoid paying contractors), having my memory refreshed of his romps through the tabloid news, and learning about his upbringing and how he has treated his family. I came to the conclusion that Donald Trump is a terrible person, so bad that he’d be implausible as a movie villain; selfish, petty, narcissistic, vulgar; incurious and anti-intellectual; opportunistic and unethical. And we just elected him to be President of the United States. I thought we were better than that. Silly me.
On Wednesday, I felt as though I should be apologizing to our international students and staff, to at least try to assure them that there are people in this country who aren’t represented by the Trump candidacy. They said that they felt badly for us being stuck with him for at least four years. They also said that they suddenly feel much less welcome in the U.S. We have a few Muslims on staff, and they’re understandably nervous. One of our researchers is gay, and he’s concerned about the possibility of advances for the LGBTQ community being rolled back. Of course, we female types are worried about what this means for reproductive rights. Everyone is wondering what might happen to research funding under a Trump administration, especially considering that a lot of our research concerns sustainability.
I’m heartsick at the outcome of this election, sad that it’s left people feeling anxious and afraid, ashamed that Trump’s is the image we’re going to be projecting to the rest of the world. I haven’t been out demonstrating, but I’m mulling over ways to constructively oppose the coming administration. It’s hard to know what to do right now, since there’s a lot of uncertainty around what to expect (Trump has flip-flopped and waffled so much, both during the campaign and since winning the election), but I have a few ideas, and NJOJ will definitely be in on the protest action.
This being a Jell-O blog, my plan is to keep it a little light, and positive. One symbolic (and admittedly silly) gesture I will be making is to eschew the use of orange Jell-O for the rest of the Project. I’ve already gone though the calendar, picked out the Virgin and Reboot recipes with orange Jell-O in them, and identified substitutes. For Memory Lane and Reposts, I’m thinking contributions to relevant charities would be a good way to go – Planned Parenthood for sure, and I’m trying to decide on one that provides assistance to refugees. There are some really good ones, and it’s a tough choice. I’ll be providing sidebar links. Stay tuned!
Meanwhile – Ported Cherry Dessert. Another thing I remember is something I indicated in my notes, an ongoing dissatisfaction with frozen fruit. I wonder if it was better in the mid-20th century, or if my standards are just too high.
The Birds Eye Quick Thaw Sweet Cherries specified in the recipe were no longer available when I made this, nor were there any plain old frozen cherries (I’m wondering now why it’s so hard to find processed cherries at all). I found myself wishing that I’d deviated from the recipe in other ways. The gelatin and hot liquid (lemon juice, cherry juice, and wine amounting to one cup) were mixed in a blender, and then ice was blended in. I think this was supposed to be another quick-set recipe, because the next step is to put the gelatin into dessert glasses, garnish with sour cream and whole cherries, and then chill it. The problem with doing it in that order, I found, was that the sour cream and cherries sank into the gelatin (as you can see in the “á la Freak Mountain” photo), which wasn’t set up enough to support them. I really should have chilled this until firm, and then added the garnish.
Even so, this one wasn’t so bad. The “two nasties” rating was something of a compromise that partly reflected my dissatisfaction with the frozen fruit and also reflected the fact that Bryan didn’t care much for the flavor, although I did. Wine jellies usually seem to go well, and this one might almost be worth a redo with fresh fruit and a little reordering of the preparation steps. It’s always nice to do a recipe that doesn’t leave you scratching your head and wondering why…
Virgin Recipe: Cherry Chiffon
This week, in Recipes for the Post-Apocalypse….
Just kidding. Kind of. You may notice in the photo that the two boxes of cherry Jell-O look different. The one in the back was pulled from my stash, and the one in front was purchased yesterday. I had never thought about the shelf-life of Jell-O before, so out of curiosity, I examined the older box, and discovered a use-by date: October 29, 2011.
Would it really be dangerous to use a packet of Jell-O five years after its ostensible expiry? I turned to Mr. Google. I was not the first person to have this question, and among the answers the consensus seems to be that powdered Jell-O can last indefinitely when stored in a cool, dry place. It isn’t so much that the contents go bad, but if the packaging breaks down and moisture gets in, mold can grow and make the gelatin unsafe to eat.
I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been playing some of the games in the Fallout franchise. The game world is an alternate-history United States, many decades after a nuclear war with China that occurs in 2077. One of the tasks the player-character performs is collecting food that can be used to restore health points, and along with the meat of various creatures that the player has to kill in the Wasteland, there are a lot of 21st-century leftovers lying around, somehow still safe to eat (if slightly radioactive). So now I’m wondering – where’s all the Jell-O? If Nuka Cola, Cram (tinned meat) and potato crisps are still edible 200 years on, there should be some Jell-O (or maybe “Gel-Oh!”) out there for the scavenging.
Well, I’m better at making Jell-O than I am at playing those games (I enjoy them, but I suck at them, and I cheat a bit because I don’t want to have to die a million times to see how the stories go), so – Cherry Chiffon.
Armed with my new knowledge of the shelf-life of Jell-O, I opened the old packet, and recognized some clumping as a sign that moisture had gotten in. (Freak Mountain is barely climate-controlled.) Into the bin it went. Luckily, I’d bought a few new packages of the cherry flavor, because the recipe calls for two, one for each layer.
The first layer is just cherry Jell-O with canned dark sweet cherries (one 8.75-oz. can) suspended in it. It turned out that my options at the supermarket for canned cherries were limited to the brand and size I bought; at 15 ounces, I have some leftovers. I’m not sure what to do with them, because I don’t really care for canned cherries, much as I’ve never liked maraschino cherries. One interesting thing about being a grownup is that you develop the ability to, well, be a grownup about eating things that you don’t care for, as long as they’re in small quantities, but six ounces of canned cherries are more of a challenge.
I may attempt this recipe for Oreo Soup from one of my absolute favorite books, a sort of anthology/art/coffee table book called Junk Food. Stay tuned….
The second layer is a simple bavarian of cherry Jell-O and 4.5 ounces of Cool Whip. Since the smallest available container of Cool Whip is eight ounces, I have some of that left over, which is handy, because if I make the Oreo Soup, I can use the leftover Oreo wafers and Cool Whip for Almond Joy Creme Pie, which appears a couple of pages after Oreo Soup in Junk Food. It just never ends, does it?
Something I was really iffy about when making Cherry Chiffon was the order of the layering. It seemed to me a bad idea have the gelatin layer on top. In my experience, the bavarians tend to be softer and less dense than the straight gelatin, so not exactly the best base for a Jell-O mold. Still, I went ahead with the recipe per the instructions, figuring that if the bavarian layer collapsed under the weight of the gelatin layer, I’d at least get to bitch about it on the internet.
I went about unmolding the Cherry Chiffon expecting the worst. What I ended up with was – a perfectly firm Jell-O mold. The bavarian layer turned out much firmer than I’d expected. The layers even seemed to be adhering to each other. I had thought that even if the bavarian layer held up, the gelatin layer might slide off, a distinct possibility given how slant-wise the layers came out. (We live in a crooked little house; nothing at Freak Mountain is level.)
Cherry Chiffon is far from the worst Jell-O I’ve made so far, but I don’t exactly love it. The Pepto-pink color of the bavarian layer is off-putting, as is the cough-drop cherry flavor. The canned cherries aren’t all that bad, but taste-wise they’re overwhelmed by the artificial cherry flavor of the Jell-O, and their texture is kind of icky.
I wish I could say I won’t be making this again, but there’s a Strawberry Chiffon variant coming up later on in the calendar. At least there’s no such thing as canned strawberries.
Memory Lane: Jellied Charoset
During the original Project, for Passover I decided to try to make a Joy of Jell-O version of the seder plate classic charoset, but with plonk (I draw the line at Manieschewitz) and cherry Jell-O. It was successful enough that, since I didn’t have a photo, I made it again for the reboot:
1 3-oz. package cherry Jell-O
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 apple, chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dissolve the Jell-O in 1 cup of boiling water. Add 1/4 cup cold water, and wine. Chill over an ice water bath until thickened. Fold in apple, nuts, and cinnamon. Pour into a lubed 3.5 cup mold and chill until set. Unmold, nosh with matzoh. Delish!
This time around, I used black cherry Jell-O, and while it’s not bad, I recommend sticking with the regular cherry flavor. Black cherry is a little too close to “cough syrup flavored” for my palate, but it does have a nice color, and it holds up well with the apples and wine. The Jellied Charoset is nice and chunky, more like stuff held together with Jell-O than stuff suspended in Jell-O, so more like real food. As I expected, it’s good on matzoh (aptly named “bread of affliction”) which needs all the help it can get.
Apart from my distaste for Manieschewitz wine (indeed, for sweet fortified wines generally), I think it’s important to use a dry red because the Jell-O is so sweet already. The tartness of a dryer wine, surprisingly, gives the Jell-O dish a more sophisticated flavor. Last time, it was Redtree pinot noir. This time, it’s a Beringer 2006 cabernet sauvignon that I happened to have lying around. I know almost nothing about wine, but Julia Child always said not to cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink, and that advice has served me well. Especially since I’m going to have to finish off that cab by myself. Bryan is a teetotaler, and when he cooks with wine it’s with bottles of “red” or “white” that he gets two for $14 at Whole Foods. I sampled the partially used “red” he has stashed in the fridge, and it left the inside of my mouth tasting like a hobo.
I am aware that Jell-O isn’t kosher for Passover, or at any other time. I used it because this is, after all, the New Joy of Jell-O Project, but the serious Passover celebrant could certainly use a kosher gelatin dessert, or an unflavored, plant-based gelling agent (Mr. Google informs me that such things are used in Asian cooking, so if you were looking for an excuse to visit H-Mart, here it is) with Kedem juice and your favorite Israeli wine.
In case anyone’s wondering, I’m not actually Jewish. Bryan is Jewish-ish, descended from a long line of unobservant Jews on his father’s side. (His mother is Catholic.) He was sent to a Hebrew Sunday school for his religious education, and when his parents threw him a big bar mitzvah party, it was at Anthony’s Pier 4 (until a few years ago, a well-known seafood restaurant in Boston), and the main dish was chicken cordon bleu. My family is Catholic, but I never received a religious education and wound up an atheist.
When we were first thinking about getting married, we figured we would go with the Jewish tradition, since that was the only religion either of us had any real feeling for. For a while we attended shabbos services at Harvard Hillel, where even the female Reform rabbi felt that Bryan should go through a formal conversion “to affirm his commitment to the community”. We took remedial Judaism classes at a schul in Lexington, observed the High Holidays (fasting for Yom Kippur was no joke; I wound up with a pounding headache at some point around mid-afternoon), and more-or-less kept kosher for Passover one year. This is particularly challenging if you’re vegetarian and coming at it from the Ashkenazic tradition, which excludes rice, beans, pulses and maize in addition to the wheat, barley, rye, spelt and oats that are prohibited in the Torah. (Ashkenazis were finally allowed by the Rabbinical Assembly to expand their options this year – about 25 years too late for us.) After all of that, we decided that it wasn’t really necessary to go through a formal conversion to be “Passover Jews”, and we were satisfied with being Jewish-ish. In the end, we got married in a civil ceremony performed by a Justice of the Peace who was a friend of Bryan’s father (the first time; the second time, it was Vegas and an Elvis impersonator. Not even kidding about this.)
I’ve never been to a proper seder. The closest I came was a Passover dinner with the family of an old boyfriend. They weren’t particularly observant, and I think they were intimidated by the prospect of explaining the seder to A–‘s shikseh live-in girlfriend. The main things I remember are how nasty the Manieschewitz was (A–‘s family were amused at my reaction) and that they didn’t have a lamb bone for the seder plate, so they used a Milkbone dog biscuit instead. Jellied Charoset doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?