Turkey time is trotting our way. Are you ready for the feast—the planning, plotting, shopping and cooking? Can you contribute to America’s favorite food-gorging holiday
if you are not the main schlepper of the turkey?
I gave up preparing the Thanksgiving feast solo years ago. I passed it on to the next generation. My contribution this year will be a cranberry Jello mold. It’s been affectionately named Aunt Mimi’s Mold—after me. I haven’t prepared my signature cranberry delight for many years. I thought it was no longer relevant. Apparently, I was wrong. The family foodies hinted that I regain my status as Mold Maker in Chief. I conceded to their wishes and said I would recreate the original crown cranberry mold.
It is really simple to put together—and much less complicated than it looks. Just combine whole cranberry sauce, Jello, pineapple, mandarin oranges and chopped walnuts.
The key is using a mold pan of the right size to hold all the ingredients. I inherited my mother’s beauty—it’s aluminum with scalloped-pattern indentions. When turned over, it looks like a crown. The end result is a shimmering tasty accompaniment to a turkey dinner—it’s just maavelous, dahling! The pan was a little banged up, as were all of her implements, but it was still OK when I last used it.
I started my search for the mold pan, hoping I still had it. There were only a few places it could be—in one of the kitchen cabinets or in the storage bin in the basement. I started to sweat when it wasn’t in any of the obvious places. The mold dybbuk certainly hadn’t run off with it.
Standing on a shaky ladder, I searched again. I spotted the gleaming silvery edge of what looked like the right shape sticking out from behind some condiments in a little-used shelf of my upper cabinet. What a relief! I found it. It wouldn’t have been useful to buy a new one; I didn’t know the dimensions—an important factor in the end result. I’m talking about an antique here—at least 100 years old.
Now that the crucial part of my contribution was found, what did I do with the recipe? I couldn’t remember whether I needed two or three cans of whole cranberry sauce. Did I use two or three boxes of red Jello, or was there one lemon in the mix? Was it a small can of crushed pineapple or a medium one? I most definitely used one small can of Mandarin oranges. The proportions matter, or the contents will not jell properly, resulting in a slippery, slimy mess when you turn the pan over.
One time when I got fancy and added fresh strawberries to the mix, I had a fiasco. That was a big no-no. I learned that the mold will not hold its shape if you use fresh fruit. The chemistry of the fresh ingredient prohibits the jelling. It was quite an embarrassment when the contents slid out as liquid glop.
I pulled apart my envelope filled with recipes cut out from magazines and newspapers. Scraps of papers with notes for my favorites were covered with an abundance of grease-stained fingerprints. All the recipe cards gathered through my years of family cooking showed up.
Then, another thought popped into my head. How many cups of hot water did I use to dissolve the Jello? Using the correct amount is very important. So far, no cranberry mold recipe was to be found.
Thanksgiving hasn’t arrived yet. I will surely find that valuable piece of paper containing the ingredients and instructions necessary for making a perfect mold. If not, I will wing it and see if I can replicate the original from memory. How hard can that be?
The worst thing that can happen is that it will melt on the way to the dinner party. It must be kept cold, or it won’t come out of the mold pan. I would then be the former champion mold maker.
Wish me luck and stay tuned.
Maxine Stone will report how it all turned out in her next column.