Saturday, February 21, 2009

Jello & Generals

Driving home from Cornfedton Friday afternoon my train of thought—which most days resembles the Toonerville Trolley—went something like this.

1. That talk last night on Grierson’s Raid at the Champaign County Civil War Round Table was very interesting.

(We stopped at Steak & Shake for a burger first and spent the ride home debating the place of cavalry in nineteenth century combat and the impact of Jackson’s loss on the Gettysburg campaign. Who says middle-aged retired military people don’t know how to loosen up and have a good time).

2. Pretty smart of Grant, using a cavalry raid to divert badly-needed Confederate resources from the main area of operations around Vicksburg.

3. Added bonus, Pemberton’s re-supply capability was crippled when Grierson’s troops cut the railroad east of Jackson, Mississippi.

4. Wasn’t one of the cookbooks I brought back from Detroit with me this fall published by the Junior League of Jackson?

5. I seem to remember a recipe for a Jell-O made with buttermilk in there. I wonder if I have any buttermilk...

(This is a pretty typical thought progression for me since usually everything either begins with or ends up on military topics. The Marine Corps still insists that every Marine is a rifleman and every Marine officer is a rifle platoon commander, so everyone--even JAGS and aviators--must go through basic infantry training. It leaves a mark. When we first moved here the Methodist minister asked me how I liked central Illinois. I told her that it looked like great terrain for armor but was too open for ground troops).

Southern Sideboards was issued thirty years ago (Editor: Mrs. Clyde X. Copeland, Jr. Co-Editors: Mrs. Patrick H. Scanlon and Mrs. Ancel C. Tipton, Jr.) at a time when traditional Delta fare was fighting a rear-guard action against new-fangled convenience cooking. The recipes are an interesting and sometimes sad mix of the old and the new, Dove Breasts in Cream Sauce uneasily sharing a chapter with Oriental Chicken Puffs (chief ingredient of which is a box of Rice-a-Roni).

This particular dish is called Alexandria Salad and was submitted by Mrs. Chandler Clover. As I have mentioned before, in the American South and Midwest, gelatin is technically a vegetable. I am willing to bet that you can attend any church supper between International Falls and Mobile Bay and the salad table will be covered with saucers bearing squares of fruit-flavored Jell-O reposing on two lettuce leaves and saluted with a flourish of mayonnaise.

Alexandria Salad

1 3 oz package peach-flavored Jell-O
1 c. orange juice
1 c. buttermilk

Dissolve gelatin in orange juice heated to boiling. Mix well, cool briefly and add buttermilk. Refrigerate.

Home cooking doesn’t get much simpler than this. I made it this afternoon and the result is a pretty soft orange-sherbet color, with a pudding-like texture and a sweet yet slightly tangy taste. It occurred to me that this would be a useful recipe if you were feeding someone who has a sweet tooth but has to watch their sugar intake since the Jell-O people make a sugar-free version and there are unsweetened fruit juices on the market. Taste after adding the buttermilk and sweeten if necessary with your choice of sugar substitute, making sure it dissolves before you put the mixture in the refrigerator.

Of course if you don’t give a damn about sugar intake, make Mrs. Leland R. Speed’s Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Icing.


1 c. cooking oil
2 c. sugar
3 eggs, well beaten
1 T. vanilla
2 ½ c. flour
1 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 c. chopped pecans
3 cups chopped, peeled apples

Cream well the oil, sugar and eggs. Add vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together and blend into creamed mixture. Fold in pecans and apples. Pour into well-greased bundt pan and bake at 350° F for 55-60 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool. Ice with BROWN SUGAR ICING (the emphasis is Mrs. Speed’s). Serves 15.

Brown Sugar Icing

1 c. light brown sugar
½ c. butter
¼ c. evaporated milk
1 t. vanilla

Bring the first 3 ingredients to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat immediately and stir in vanilla. Beat with a spoon until the icing is cool. Pour over cake.

Oh, and if you happen to be in Champaign next September, the spousal unit and I have agreed to give a presentation on the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1862.


sewducky said...

LOL I don't know if it's a vegetable or not, I've been to many in Texas and Tennessee and several in Georgia and Alabama (and am a southerner, even got the accent to prove it) and in the last 20 years recall gelatin in just one function, and it was because she knew I was coming and my son and I both loved this jello salad.

It was probably more true before, but I even this looks good, and I'll probably try it, but I doubt I'll bring it or see any jello next time I have to go to any kind of social.

Amy said...

yum that recipe sounds so good, what an interesting talk hearing on the way home, I love stuff like that :-)

Liz Ditz said...

My mother (a 3rd generation Californian) used to make a frozen-orange-juice & buttermilk dessert using plain gelatin.

Shay said...

Liz, are you willing to share the recipe? Is it just fruit juice, gelatin and b'milk? because I'd like to try this with apple juice.