Aside from fresh from the garden vegetables and iced tea, nothing says summer gathering to a Southerner like congealed salad. However, outside of the Southern United States, most folks refer to them as Gelatin or Jell-O salads. We just like to be different.
The possibilities of a congealed salad are endless, much to the delight of it’s devotees. My great grandmother, who lived the majority of her life as a sharecropper, considered congealed salads to be the ultimate treat. Back in her day, though, it was a treat which could only be enjoyed in the winter due to them not having a refrigerator. Alabama summers would never allow the gelatin to set up in this heat!
My grandmother says that in the winter time Lela had an old wash tub she kept out back of her house. She’d let it fill up with water and as soon as it got cold enough to freeze, off she’d go to mix up a congealed salad in her kitchen and then set it out on top of that ice to set up in time for dinner.
When Lela was older, she lived with my Grandmama and Granddaddy. Each week they’d make their pilgrimage to the grocery store, the one time Lela went out. She’d get dressed up in her good dress and hard leather shoes, hook her black handbag in the crook of her arm, and come back with twinkling eyes and a brand new container of pre-made congealed salad. In her mind, she had really moved up in the world to be able to afford such a thing!
Much like my great grandmother, I’ve never met a congealed salad that I didn’t like. On a recent visit to Georgia though, my sister in law managed to shoot this one to the top of my list by making this salad with one of my most favorite things in the entire universe: Diet Dr Pepper!
Diet Dr Pepper Congealed Salad
1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple
1/2 cup water
2 packages (3 ounces each) cherry gelatin
1 can (21 ounces) cherry pie filling
3/4 cup Diet Dr Pepper (or favorite coke)
Drain pineapple, reserving the juice. Set aside. In a saucepan, bring pineapple juice and water to a boil. Add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Stir in Diet Dr Pepper. Stir in Cherry pie filling. Stir in pineapple. Pour into mold or serving bowl. Refrigerate until firm. Serve cold.
*May substitute carbonated beverage of your choice. My Southern upbringing just won’t let me call it a “soda” and y’all may not know what I mean when I say “coke”…
Photo courtesy of SouthernPlate