Contrary to what many people think, California has seasons as distinct as those in other regions of the country.
It’s Autumn now. Shorter days have robbed the leaves of chlorophyll, and vineyards and trees glow with vibrant color: mahogany, red, yellow, and chartreuse. Here in wine country, it is also the season of “the Crush.” While keeping a close eye on the weather, winemakers use chemistry, intuition, and experience to determine the optimal time to harvest the grapes. Then workers quickly cut the grape clusters from the vines and deliver the fruit to the wine cellars where it is sorted, de-stemmed, and sent to the crusher.
This is also the time of year when I make a special dish—a glistening, raspberry-pink delight that shimmies and shimmers on its crystal platter. Family members clamor for it. Guests initially look at it with suspicion, but after tasting it, usually ask for seconds.
If you remember disco, Mr. Coffee, and harvest gold refrigerators, you may have guessed what the dish is. And if memories of the ‘70s’ wide-leg pants and wedge sandals make you nostalgic for the decade, revisit it in Julie Mulhern’s intelligent, witty, and captivating Country Club Murders series.
Yes, the mystery dish is the much-maligned Jell-O® mold. Generally, I agree that molds of gelatin are unnatural and somewhat scary, but I make an exception for Eleanor’s Three-Berry Jell-O® Mold. (The recipe is below.)
Even if you decide to forgo the culinary throwback and maintain your status as a discerning, even sophisticated eater, still treat yourself to Julie Mulhern’s books. I heartily recommend them.
They are mysteries for all seasons.
Eleanor’s Three-Berry Jell-O® Mold
- 1 6-ounce pkg strawberry Jell-O®
- 1 15-ounce can whole berry cranberry sauce
- 1 8-ounce package frozen raspberries
- 1 cup sour cream (not lowfat)
- 2 cups boiling water
- Knox® gelatin (optional)
- Defrost the raspberries, reserving juice, if any.
- Blend the cranberry sauce and sour cream in blender or by hand until thoroughly mixed.
- Empty the Jell-O® into a large bowl. Stir in the boiling water until Jell-O® is dissolved. (If you are worried about it setting, you can add up to a tablespoon of Knox® gelatin at this point. But it usually sets just fine.)
- Stir the raspberries and syrup (if any) into the Jell-O®
- Stir the cranberry and sour cream mixture into the Jell-O®.
- Pour into a 5 or 6 cup mold and refrigerate until set, 6 to 8 hours. You may also pour into individual ramekins or cups.
- Unmold onto platter. The mold may need to be dipped quickly into hot water to loosen the contents.
Serves at least 12 people. May be garnished with frosted grapes, cranberries, or berries. May be eaten as a dessert and is delicious as a side dish to poultry.