Saturday, December 19, 2009

Not Your Grandmother's Jello Mold

Since we're mere days from Christmas, I thought I'd share one more cranberry recipe since it's a family favorite. I have to admit that the mere phrase "jello mold" brings to mind the jello that Aunt Bethany brought to dinner in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. But this recipe is so good that my mother calls it a cranberry salad instead of a cranberry jello mold. It's crunchy and refreshing, and makes a great light dessert on those days when you've eaten a little bit more than you should. We serve it with dinner (because we have to have a Yule Log for the real dessert), but it works well either way.

I wish I could credit the person who came up with this recipe. We've had it for years, and there's just no clue anymore about the origin. It's a snap to make with a food processor (my preference), but you can also chop the ingredients by hand. I've used a mold, but it looks just as pretty when it sets up in a simple bowl. It has wonderful flavor and a surprising texture, and it must be made in advance, which means it's one less thing to worry about if you're preparing a big meal.

Cranberry Salad

2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 envelope gelatin, unflavored or lemon
1 cup boiling water
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Pulse the cranberries in a food processor.

2. Pour them into a bowl, add the sugar, stir, and let stand for one hour.

3. At this point, I cheat a little. The food processor is already out, so I pop the celery and walnuts in and pulse them, too. I set them aside to use when the cranberries are ready.

4. About 50 minutes later, empty the gelatin envelope into a large bowl and add the boiling water. Stir to dissolve and let stand a few minutes.

5. Add the cranberries, celery, and walnuts to the gelatin. Stir to mix. Pour into mold or bowl.

6. Refrigerate until firm.

7. When ready to serve, loosen the edges with a knife and dip the bottom into a bowl of warm water briefly. Turn over onto serving platter. Curly lettuce makes a particularly nice garnish.


  1. I haven't had this in years, thank you for sharing.

  2. Oh, how beautiful, Krista! I just stopped by to wish all of you a Merry Christmas. I hope you have wonderful holidays filled with family, friends, and, of course, good food! And, I wish you all successful books in the new year! Julie, I'll see you on my blog on Jan. 5. Merry Christmas, everyone!

    Lesa -

  3. Ooh... Krista. This is so pretty. And it's a make-ahead dish? I'm in. I need to get myself a food processor. Hmm.... Christmas is right around the corner...

    Lesa - thank you! And Merry Christmas to you as well! Looking forward to January 5th!

  4. It is a beautiful dish, Krista! So glad you shared! What a lot of texture!

  5. I remember this recipe! Or eating the end-product, anyway. :) I think my Aunt Jo made it and it was SO yummy. Yours is beautiful, too and I like the idea of having something that's make-ahead on the menu. Thanks!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  6. Lovely. I'd just have to leave out the walnuts, due to allergies. But the fresh cranberries sound delicious.

  7. I haven't had a jello salad since I was a kid! This one sounds so good and easy I might give it a try. Cranberries are so refreshing after all of the rich food.

    Are you going to share your yule log recipe? My husband saw one on TV and sounded interested in having one.

  8. Beautiful! I'm so glad you did another craberry post. This is a treasure of a recipe, too. Thank you, Krista! Happy Holidays!

    ~ Cleo
    author of Holiday Grind
    A Coffeehouse Mystery

    “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”

    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  9. Krista-

    That's a dual purpose recipe if ever I saw one.
    It's pretty and delicious!!! I think I'm really
    going to miss cranberry week but what a lot of
    wonderful recipes we have!

  10. I haven't had jello salad since my grandmother used to make it every holiday. I have to say, your version looks much better than her green jello with canned fruit salad! :)

  11. Ahhhh the jello mold. I haven't seen one of these since I was a kid. Oh the memories - lol. Thanks for that :)

  12. Book Dragon and Elizabeth, it seems like a lot of people remember this recipe. It's still delicious!

    Lesa, thank you so much. I hope your holidays are full of fun, family and great food, too. Thanks for being such a lovely and kind reviewer.

    Julie, it's a snap with a food processor, but it can be made by hand. Still, it's as good a reason as any to splurge on a food processor!

    Avery, Cleo, and Jenn, it does have a lot of texture. Gluten free, and if you make it with fake gelatin, it can even be vegan!

    Book Bird Dog, could you substitute pecans? It would change the flavor but you'd get the lovely crunch.

    LOL, Mother Rimmy. It tastes way different than that green jello, too!

    My Man's Belly and everyone else who remembers jello molds, I'm glad I stirred some memories!

    Janel, I won't be posting again before Christmas, but I have someone else who wants the recipe, too, so I'll send it to both of you.

    ~ Krista

  13. Kudos to you for having jello on your blog! I have a jello mold post too - actually, the recipe seems somewhat similar, cranberries, celery, jello...but mine didn't mold, it was more of a jellied salad. Yours is quite pretty.

  14. you are very brave to be posting about jello! but that is a pretty jello mold

  15. I love retro food and I think this is a great modernization of the classic. Kudos to you!