Me, I like Jell-O. It makes me smile.
When I had two potlucks pending recently, I put myself down for Jell-O, knowing people would laugh. Jell-O! But I wanted it to be surprising: not just any old bowl of jiggly gel, nor shredded-carrot concoction or whipped-cream confection. I wanted something fancy.
Here's what you need:
- 2 packets plus 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (Knox is the only kind I've ever seen. It has four 1/4-oz. packets per box)
- 2 cups sparkling white wine, such as prosecco, or a non-alcoholic sparkling cider. Though I think any light-colored wine or fruit juice would probably work just fine. Use a wine you like the taste of, not something super-cheap.
- 1/2 cup sugar or less (1/4 cup or less if you're using cider or fruit juice)
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- A bunch of fruit! Fresh is nicest, of course, but in February, there's no shame in using frozen peaches or canned mandarin orange slices. The frozen peaches are good for structural integrity, too. I also used fresh grapes (halved), blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.
|If you are feeling extra-fancy and have a zesting tool, you can zest an orange – organic, please – and boil the strips three times, then add them to the gelatin mixture.|
- Measure out a cup of wine and heat it in a pan with the sugar, honey and optional orange zest.
- In the same measuring cup, pour 1/4 cup of wine and sprinkle the gelatin on it.
- When the pan of wine has come to a boil and the sugar has dissolved, take it off the heat and mix in the gelatin (it will be kind of foamy and lumpy), stirring until it is dissolved.
- Stir in the last 3/4 cup wine and the lemon juice and pour the mixture into another metal pan or bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes or so.
- While the gelatin is cooling, assemble your fruit in a pattern in a glass, ceramic or other non-stick container. I used a Le Creuset enameled cast-iron terrine. Try to build the fruit up a little on the sides as well as the bottom. Be creative!
- When the gelatin is no longer hot but still liquid, carefully pour it over the fruit, then chill the whole thing for six hours or more.
- To unmold it, dip the container in hot water for a few seconds. It may also help to run a sharp knife around the edges, if they're flat. Invert a plate on the mold, then flip the whole thing over. The gelatin should fall onto the plate in one piece.
A thick rubbery layer of gelatin still stuck in the pan and a colorful but oddly textured fruit salad on the plate.
The cow-orkers at the Super Bowl potluck ate it to be polite, but it was definitely more eccentric than fancy. (And nowhere near as popular as the marshmallow-coated popcorn with cinnamon jelly beans. Seriously. That stuff was like crack. Must get the recipe.)
|But here's the thing: I knew I was going to blow it the first time around. The first batch really was a test (sorry, cow-orkers) so I could get it right for Stitch 'n' Bitch. Or, as Mom likes to call it, "Bitches in Stitches," since there's no actual knitting involved, but a lot of laughing.|
This time I used wine instead of sparking cider – Domaine Ste. Michelle Frizzante, courtesy of a cow-orker grateful for a bee removal job. I let the gelatin cool down without an ice bath and didn't bother trying to create a base layer.
I placed frozen peach slices on the bottom and sides of the terrine, then filled in the middle with grapes and berries. I knew that when the liquid gelatin was poured in, there would be a certain amount of shifting and floating by the stuff in the middle. But I figured it would look pretty anyway.
I wish I had a better photo than this, which I snapped rather hurriedly since I was running late. Even Manisha's cellphone pic looks better:
In any case, it was very gratifying to hear the oohs and ahs when I brought it in. Even better was its tastiness. The wine flavor and the fruit mixed well, and the texture was good. Now I'm looking forward to making it in the summer. It's so light and refreshing and will be fabulous with local fresh fruit. And despite my wordy instructions, it's really a snap to make.
Even if you've never had anything nice to say about gelatin, I guarantee you will get rave reviews for this fancy fruit terrine.