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.


  • 2 packages .3 oz red Jell-O (May use sugar free.)
  • 2 cups water (1 hot, 1 cold)
  • 1 can whole berry cranberry sauce and juice
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (generally walnuts)
  • 1 small can mandarin oranges, drained


  1. Dissolve Jell-O in hot water.
  2. Add all other solid ingredients and mix.
  3. Pour into mold.
  4. Add cold water to fill mold.
  5. Refrigerate

Tips on Unmolding Jell-O Gelatin

reproduced from The New Joys of Jell-O, 2nd Edition, 1974

Allow gelatin to set until firm — serveral hours of overnight.

Use a small pointed knife, dipped in warm water, to loose top edge. Or, moisten tips of fingers and gently pull gelatin from edge of mold.

Dip mold, just to the rim, in warm (not hot) water — about 10 seconds. Lift from water, hold upright, and shake slightly to loosen gelatin.

Moisten top of gelatin and a chilled serving plate with cold water. Moistened plate allows gelatin to be moved.

Lift off mold carefully — if gelatin doesn’t release easily, dip the mold in warm water again. If necessary, move gelatin to center of plate.

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