1/2 lb. marshmallows, quartered
1/2 lb. gumdrops in assorted flavors
1 No. 2 1/2 can pineapple, diced
1 lb. white or Tokay grapes, halved and seeded
(note: Tokay grapes are Hungarian white grapes used in wine making. Huh?)
1/2 cup nut meats
1 small bottle maraschino cherries, halved
Combine the above ingredients and add the following dressing:
1/2 cup sugar
4 T flour
1 T vinegar
1/8 t salt
3/4 cup pineapple juice
1 pint whipping cream
Juice of two lemons
Blend sugar and flour. Add vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pineapple juice. Cook in double boiler until smooth and thick, stirring constantly. Cool. Fold in whipped cream, then fruit combination. Let stand 12 to 24 hours.
I have to begin today's post with the shopping trip. This is not your usual salad and the ingredients were certainly not usual purchases for me. I knew this would be a challenge when I saw the No. 2 1/2 can...how much?? On a website I found that the No. 2 1/2 can would equal 1 pound 13 ounces or 3-1/2 cups. It today's cans I bought two 20-ounce cans of pineapple rings, more than enough. Of course Aldi didn't have pineapple tidbits so I knew I'd have to cut the rings myself. No problem. Aldi also had the maraschino cherries and seedless grapes (red, not Tokay), neither of which I buy normally -- maraschino cherries are scary -- and I have a grown-in-the USA rule for grapes, much to the chagrin of my 6-year-old son, Max, who often hears me shriek "put that back -- it's not in season -- it was grown in (insert South American country here)!!"
The pineapple juice? I could cheat and take it from the pineapple can (come on, it's the 50s) but the gum drops were nowhere to be found. Target also didn't have them and a Target team member didn't know what they were. When in doubt, go to a drug store. CVS Pharmacy had them, 99 cents a bag but they were called Spice Drops (more on that later). Marshmallows? I knew I didn't have to cut them -- they make a mini variety these days. Though I do remember Grandma dutifully snipping large marshmallows into quarters once with kitchen shears.
Assembling the salad
I located my largest stainless-steel bowl and began cutting grapes in half, silently praising genetic modification and advances in horticulture for the seedless grape. Max ate at least a pound of grapes during this part of the process. Then we dumped in the mini marshmallows, pineapple, nuts, and cherries. We saved the gumdrops for last and I went ahead and halved them knowing the gumdrops were wild card in the recipe. I figured they would be weird anyway, might as well try to minimize the weirdness.
Double double-boiler trouble
Once the fruit was assembled, I assembled a makeshift double-boiler. Grandma probably had a store-bought one, I can't say for sure, and my mom had two equally sized pans that would fit together as one. My version is usually hit or miss -- whatever fits together. Today, I placed a large Pyrex bowl over a stock pot filled with simmering water and began stirring. I was secretly hoping my Pyrex wouldn't burst so I kept the flame low. And I stirred. And stirred. Then I realized i forgot the lemon juice. My dutiful husband squeezed the two lemons for me and then again I stirred....sweating. I grabbed a date-filled oatmeal cookie and milk for sustanance. Then Max's plastic caterpillar had to come investigate. I shooed away the caterpillar and continued....and it was a full 25 minutes before my "dressing" thickened even a little bit. At least my bowl didn't burst.
The dressing really resembled a fruit curd and, as I discovered, i wasn't far off. Traditional Lemon Curd is similar in structure but has the addition of egg yolks but the idea of a spreadable tangy fruit substance was present here -- only mine would be called a pineapple curd. By then, an hour into the recipe, I was so wanting to be done. I plunged the dressing into an ice water bath and whipped the cream.
Whipping an entire pint of cream. I don't think I've even done it. That's why they make Cool Whip but it wasn't invented until 1967.
The Pineapple Curd, as I call it, took as much time as a risotto.
"My tongue likes to taste everything in it!" declared Max
I have a 30-minute meal rule in our house but here I was over an hour into this recipe.I then assembled the salad and we all grabbed spoons and took a taste. Pretty good, except for the gumdrops. Yikes. But we hadn't let the salad chill for the requisite 12 to 24 hours yet. Into the fridge it went. I still had some unanswered questions...
1. Why would a 50s housewife make this dish? My guess is that is was a take-off on the popular Ambrosia Salad only with gumdroppedy goodness. Proper ladies had glass jars of gumdrops in the parlor, why not include them in the fruit course that evening? Ambrosia Salad was popular at the time and used coconut, oranges, and a cream-like mixture (but remember, no Cool Whip)
2. Who has this kind of time? I imagined an apron-clad Mom with three kids running around the kitchen dutifully tending her double-boiler. Doesn't fly. Maybe she made this while they were at school or watching TV.
3. Is it really food? Michael Pollan in "Food Rules" has a rule about not eating things your Grandmother wouldn't recognize. But apart from the marshmallows, maraschino cherries, and gumdrops everything else was actually homemade.
4. Dessert or salad? At a picnic or church supper it would have been a fruit course I think. Nowadays in the post-Atkins world it would be a dessert and one to eaten in a dark closet somewhere.
I had to get some real feedback however. Real people. From other generations. I took the salad to my school and had the staff taste it. Surprisingly, I had some positive feedback, despite the fact i told them they were allowed to hate it. Most agreed the gumdrops had an off-note (spice drops are generally clove, anise, cinnamon, and mint flavors) but shockingly the salad mellowed during its 12+ hour chill. Not too bad! Some took a second Dixie cup, but I still carted half a container home. I'll maybe test the shelf life. Nah.
Soup Can Rating: ONE can out of five. I'll never make this again unless someone kind of sadistic requests it. Even then, no spice drops, just fruit-flavored or I'll just make Ambrosia Salad.