Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Peach Jello Mold

My first Jell-O mold!

Oh, we're all "acquainted" with Jell-O. Notice I didn't say we're all on friendly terms. Or even best friends. Jell-O is something that has quite literally "slipped" into our lives and down our childhood mouths. And memory.

Mothers use it as a medicine.

Grandmothers and aunts arrived at holidays burdened and armed with "the mold" precariously but sacredly balanced. Everyone gathered around for the "unmolding" holding their breath and hoping it didn't stick.

My family still serves green pear mold every Thanksgiving. And somewhere in my 1960's mind, I remember chopped carrots and pineapple suspended in a green gel. I actually liked it.

To a child's fancy, Jell-O is magical. Layered with rainbow colors, it's like eating crayons. It moves and jiggles like a toy. It plays with light, like glass marbles. It's cold and melts in your mouth (kind of) like ice cream. You can suspend just about it anything in it, including olives which I always kind of found fascinating, like Martian eyeballs or something.

Vintage Jell-O ads are wonderful. It's always portrayed as elegant, nutritional fare. Glamorous and "hostess worthy."

But we all grow up. Unlike peanut-butter-and jelly or grilled cheese, Jell-O is that kind of fond food we quietly leave behind, like training wheels. Away we go never to look back.

But Jell-O has a zombie life. It never dies. Never. Instead, it re-invents itself constantly. Like that pear mold. And I had many a Jell-O cake in the teacher's lounge when I taught school. I enjoyed them all. It's even become an art form. I've seen creations with Barbie-doll heads suspended in it all fetus-like. Yuck!

But I think Jell-O's biggest reinvention was simply to grow up. Go to college. Where it was introduced to booze. The friend of fraternity and sorority alike. Jell-O shots were born and the rest is history.

Jell-O was suddenly re-discovered. Blogs were written. Books published. It was no longer your mother's or grandmother's Jell-O. It was back.

Armed with my flea-market, one-dollar, vintage "copper" molds, I embarked on the Jell-O journey. The recipe below was cut in half to fit my 3.5-cup mold. The original recipe can be found here: Peaches & Cream Jello.

The following recipe called for peach schnapps. I didn't have any so I simply flavored the  milk layer with a bit of almond extract and fresh-grated nutmeg. Rum would have been a nice addition. Following recipes will most likely have the booze. Stay tuned. In the meantime, give this a try. It really wasn't difficult and will take the angst out of making a Jell-O mold if you've never tried.

I unmolded this on a hot day (Jell-O is tough to photograph). I found it refreshing and cool. The almond layer gave it a grown-up taste. Will I make it again. You betcha. With the booze!

  • 1, 14-oz peach slices, drained, syrup reserved
  • 1, 3-oz. package peach-flavored Jell-O
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1 pkg. Knox Gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 7 oz. sweetened condensed milk (1/2 can)
  • 6 tablespoons peach schnapps
  • 1/2 the drained peach syrup (if not using liquor, add all the syrup)
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract (omit if using liquor)
  • Several grates fresh nutmeg (omit if using liquor)
  • 1, 3.5-cup mold

Drain peaches and reserve the juice.

In a small bowl, dissolve the Jell-O in the 1 cup of boiling water. When fully dissolved, add the cold water. Stir and place in refrigerator until custardy thick. If you leave it in too long, nuke a bit in microwave. 

Place about six sliced peaces in the bottom of your mold. Spoon the thickened gelatin over the peaches. Refrigerate until set but not firm (your finger should leave an imprint when you touch the gelatin). If you allow it to set too much, the next layer may slide off when unmolded.

Dissolve the unflavored gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water. Then add the 3/4 cup boiling water. Continue to stir until powder is fully dissolved. Add the 7 ounces sweetened condensed milk, peach syrup and/or liquor and, if using, almond extract and nutmeg. Stir. Taste. Adjust flavorings as needed. 

Refrigerate until a bit thick. It will kind of resemble cooked egg whites. Spoon over the peach layer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To unmold, place mold in warm water for a few seconds (don't overdo it). Wet a plate and put plate on top of mold. Flip. The mold should slide out easily. If not, repeat the process.

Slice and serve.