Roast beef and carrots and things like that are all very well, but kids, husbands, and guests never get quite as worked up over them as they do over dessert. Joys of Jell-O published 1962
Jell-O often appeared at vintage dinners in the form of congealed vegetable salads, fruit salads, and as a light dessert. Some of these dishes are best avoided. Onion, celery, and radishes congealed in a molded gelatin? Corned beef and cabbage encased in Jell-O? No thank you! But not all Jell-O dishes are alike. Some are appealing even to a 2017 palate.
For a full 30 years American food fashion included encasing all manner of meats, vegetables, and fruits in gelatin, preferably Jell-O gelatin. Mid century cooks considered it to be good stewardship to empty out the refrigerator of long-in-the-tooth produce and bits of meat and make use of it. How better to use old produce than to congeal it, mold it, and serve it to the ones you love?
But not all Jell-O dishes included suspect ingredients. Some contained fresh or canned fruits, nuts, cream cheese, whipped cream, or its 'wrong side of the tracks cousin Chemical Whip.'* The gelatin was dissolved in water, fruit juice, or soft drinks such as ginger ale, 7 Up, or cola. Once the Jell-O was mixed it was usually poured into molds or dessert cups. If your Jell-O concoction is molded then it is salad and served as a side dish. If Jell-O is to be served as a dessert then serve it in a dessert cup.
The recipe that follows is a light dessert with a unique taste. It is made with lemon Jell-O dissolved in ginger ale. The ginger ale creates a tingly mouth feel and adds a depth of taste that is not easy to discern. The original recipe called for canned pears but Mimi's Kitchen pantry had none. I therefore substituted peaches. It was a good choice. My usual pattern is to bake a pie or cake for dessert but after our heavy beef dinner the Jell-O dessert cup was perfectly light and tasty.
I was pleasantly surprised.
* Cool Whip
1 package (3 ounce) Jell-O Gelatin (Any fruit flavor is fine. I used lemon.)
1 cup boiling water
1½ teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup ginger ale
1 cup diced fresh or canned pears
Dissolve Jell-O Gelatin in boiling water. Stir well to make sure the Jell-O is completely dissolved. Add lemon juice and ginger ale. Chill until very thick.
If you are using canned pears then pour into a strainer over a bowl and let the syrup drip through while the Jell-O is chilling.
Very gently fold diced pear into chilled Jell-O.
Spoon Jell-O into 6 dessert cups or a 1 quart vintage Jell-O mold. Return to refrigerator to chill until very firm. This will take at least 4 hours but longer is better for molded Jell-O.