This Vintage Congealed Salad Makes Christmas Way Merrier—and Definitely Jigglier
Santa keeps this family recipe on the Nice List.
During the holidays of my youth, there was always one particularly unwanted guest. Jiggly and garishly dressed, this Yuletide trespasser would sit in the corner, making all sorts of plays to get my attention. Just give it a chance, my aunt would coo. Don’t knock it until you try it, my grandmother would echo.
It was the family recipe for congealed salad, passed down from my great-grandmother. (We don’t know where she got it, which only bolstered my skeptical attitude.) Lime-flavored and speckled with pecans and celery—Yes, I said celery—the gelatinous dish popped into my Christmas dreams alongside dancing sugar plums for years. The scene in Matilda when Trunchbull makes Bruce Bogtrotter eat the entire chocolate cake? It usually went a little something like that.
Just when I’d forgotten it, the vintage side would pop back up, in full-force green. With not one, but two lime gelatin packets basing its form, the casserole-shaped concoction calls for a creamy mixture of mayonnaise, cream cheese, and milk. Perhaps, with the goal of hammering home the point even more conspicuously for health-minded or lactose-intolerant types.
A can of chunky pineapples contributes, in my opinion, a slightly redeeming flavor addition. Pecans and celery make up an unusual but crunchy duo, and lemon and lime zest garnishing gives the gelatin salad quite the touch of elegance, no?
Despite my qualms, I’ve come to appreciate the come-hither jiggle and fluorescent hue of Nana’s Lime Delight. (Now that I’m older, and the dreams have faded away. Mostly.) We keep congealed salads in the South more for posterity’s sake than anything, and there’s comfort in that.
WATCH: How to Make Nana's Lime Delight
Whether a cheery, cranberry-red holiday mold or a rainbow-hued stained glass number, these salads are simply a Southern essential. Maybe our mamas just wanted to live life in technicolor.
While we’ll certainly be making Nana proud this Christmas, here’s the step-by-step recipe for Nana’s Lime Delight, should you also start feeling nostalgic.