My Mother’s Cranberry Jell-O Mold Recipe

Anyone who wonders about my fascination with mid-century frankenfoods need look no farther than my mother’s holiday recipe collection. This very 1960s New England side dish is a favorite in my family at Rosh Hashanah and Thanksgiving alike. A word of warning, learned from experience: off-brand (e.g. kosher) gelatins haven’t jelled as firmly as needed for a mold. (If you know the trick to make them work, please share in the comments.)There’s some debate in my family as to which flavor of Red Jell-O works best for the recipe, but I’m pretty sure we have used any number of flavors and it’s come out fine each time.

My mother's recipe card.

My mother’s recipe card.

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My Mother’s Brisket Recipe

My mother wasn’t much of a cook. My brother and I talk about growing up on Hungry Man TV Dinners, and many of my favorite holiday recipes involve opening cans to be mixed together and heated. However, there were certain dishes my mother perfected over time. She was proudest of her brisket.

There was a story she loved to tell in the last years of her life about how she emailed the brisket recipe to my cousin Karen, only to receive a reply from a stranger saying, “I don’t know who Karen is, but the brisket was delicious. Thanks!” Ironically, I don’t think she ever actually emailed the recipe to Karen, so when she died I despaired of ever reconstructing it. (My uncle and I tried this year, in a Facebook conversation prompted by my cousin’s request for the recipe.)

This morning, I was going to try to recreate the recipe from memory, but I decided to try one last Google search, just in case. Lo and behold, someone I have never heard of entered the recipe into Tastebook.com, attributed to my mother to dispel any doubt. Thanks, Debbie Pullen, whoever you are!

Lest I lose it again, I thought I would preserve the recipe in my own records right here before I try my first attempt at making it. You’ll note it relies on canned goods and onion soup mix. What can I say, my mom was a product of her generation. You’ll also note that these directions assume you’ll be cooking ahead and reheating for the holidays. You might be tempted to serve it hot out of the oven, and that’s fine, but the freezing and reheating process definitely helps tenderize the beef and combine the flavors. I believe that my mother occasionally seared the brisket before the first step of this recipe, but Mark Bittman says the searing doesn’t really change the outcome, so feel free to skip. Enjoy! Continue reading