My friend Judy brought a strawberry congealed salad to a party a few weeks ago, and I thought it was the best congealed salad I’d ever had — very fresh-strawberry flavored, and not too sweet. It was a big hit with everyone, and new to many of us. Judy said she’d put up lots of great local strawberries in her freezer this spring, so this was a good way to use them, and that she got the recipe from her Aunt Ruby Beeson, her mother’s sister, many, many years ago.
I asked her for the recipe, and then found out that the same recipe was already in the NC Strawberry Association’s online recipe collection, from Strawberry Hill U.S.A., a member strawberry farm in Chesnee, SC. In a quick online check for photos, I found this same recipe several times, often with comments: “I got this recipe from my mother-in-law many years ago” and “Our family gatherings wouldn’t be the same without this classic gelatin salad” and “My grandmother used to make this salad for Christmas gatherings.” It looks like this recipe first showed up in the late 1950s and was very popular in the 1960s, gracing the tables of church socials and family gatherings, and collected into community cookbooks and family recipe files.
This dish has a beautiful, jewel-like color (you can see why it is a hit for Christmas), and is sweet enough to enjoy as a dessert, while still tasting fresh and salad-like. It is a great use for strawberries that you have put in your freezer, but can also be made with fresh strawberries. Other similar recipes are variations on the same theme, e.g., made with pretzels, coconut, or cream cheese, or with a crust.
Judy’s mother passed away just a few weeks later, so family and traditions have been very much on our minds. This recipe is now out among a whole new community and already gathering new memories. Judy’s recipe is below; find this salad also in our online recipe collection.
Strawberry Congealed Salad
2 10-oz. pkgs. frozen strawberries, thawed (don’t discard the juice)
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 3-oz. pkgs. strawberry jello (or one 6-oz. package
1 cup water (heated to boiling)
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup sour cream
In a large bowl dissolve jello in water. Mix in strawberries, bananas, pecans and pineapple. Spread one half of the mixture as the bottom layer in a 9″ x 12″ glass pan, and put it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from freezer. Spread sour cream in an even layer over the mixture. Spread the rest of the mixture from the bowl over the sour cream. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until set.