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That Terrible Jello Mold

In my last post on our family’s Latke Party, I teased (as I often do) that a post on “That Terrible Jello Mold” would feature in a future post. This is that post!

That Terrible Jello Mold:

On my father’s side of the family we had five sets of cousins in the area. Our family, one set of first cousins  and three sets of second cousins. While we didn’t gather as a family as often as those in other cultures do, we did get together for Thanksgiving, Christmas, at least two pool parties in warmer times of the year, and occasionally vacationed together.

Most of these events were, in some form, pot lucks. And therein lies the origin of That Terrible Jello Mold.

The two main characters are my mother, Kate, and my paternal grandmother, Katie. Since the names are so close together, for the rest of this post, I’ll use Catherine for my paternal grandmother. Even though she preferred Katie, my using Catherine will avoid any chance of confusion.

In my earliest memories, Catherine brought the Jello Mold to these events. It was simply lime Jello with grapefruit and (sometimes) avocado in it. And it wasn’t good. But at some point, Kate discovered the recipe I repeat below and brought it to one of these events.  And it was a big hit! So much so that, whenever one of the other families coordinated the pot luck, Kate was always asked to bring her Jello Mold.

Catherine fairly quickly realized that her Jello Mold had been upstaged, and she (to put it mildly) didn’t like it. And from that point forward, whenever any of the other families were coordinating the potluck, on being contacted, Catherine would say something like “And please don’t have Kate bring That Terrible Jello Mold.”

And so, although I didn’t learn this until I was an adult, the other four families named this recipe “That Terrible Jello Mold”. And once Mary and I learned of this, it became our name for this recipe as well.


That Terrible Jello Mold

Serves 6-8 people as a dessert. 8-12 people as a small side dish.


1 small package Lemon Jello
1 small package Raspberry Jello
1/2 Cup whole berry Cranberry Sauce
1 can Sliced Peaches in Heavy Syrup, drained (save the syrup)
1/2 Cup of the syrup from the above, reserved when drained
1 Cup Sour Cream

1 Smooth Sided Jello Mold (Easier to unmold than a fluted mold)

Prepare Raspberry Jello as directed on package, using only 1-1/2 cups water. Add Cranberry Sauce. Pour into mold and poke the cranberries around so they are evenly distributed. Cover. Chill in refrigerator at least 4 hours (I usually chill overnight).

In a mixing bowl, empty the Lemon Jello package. Bring 1/2 cup of water to a full boil. Add to the Lemon Jello and stir well. (Note you are activating the Jello with only 1/4 the normal amount of water, so the stirring is quite important!). Add the Sour Cream and stir until well combined (I’ve been known to use a whisk.) Finally, add the reserved peach syrup and stir one last time.

Remove the mold from the refrigerator, uncover, and score the visible Jello surface with a fork (it helps keep the two layers together later). Slowly pour the Jello/Syrup/Sour Cream mixture over the existing jello. Add the peaches by hand, distributing around the mold. Cover and refrigerate another 4 hours.

To unmold, fill the sink with hot water to 2/3 the height of the mold. While sink is filling, heat a knife with the water and run around the edges of the mold to start the separation. Holding the mold by the edges, lower into the water and with a gentle circular motion, rock the mold counter-clockwise, then clockwise. Continue until you see the Jello just barely start to move separately from the mold.

Put your serving plate upside down over the mold. Holding both firmly, invert so the plate is on the bottom. Gently wiggle the mold as you apply slight upward pressure. It should come free easily.

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