Grated, congealed, or coated in mayonnaise, carrot salads have a place of honor in our celebration dinners.
Can anyone remember a time when carrot salad was not on the menu at cafeterias and country diners? Alongside creamy potato salads and classic deviled eggs, carrot salads have long been a staple at Easter dinner or spring celebration meals; a mound of grated carrots sprinkled with raisins was sure to be served inside Grandmother’s vintage cut glass bowl. While the vision of soggy carrots swimming in a pool of mayonnaise may not tempt your taste buds today, a trip through the Southern Living recipe archives reveals that, just like most things in this world, carrot salad has changed with the times.
Many of us grew up eating a simple salad made of grated carrots, raisins and mayonnaise.
The Southern Living Hospitality Cookbook, published in 1976, includes this quick and easy recipe for Carrot-Apple Salad:
3 Golden Delicious apples
1/2 cup diced nuts
1 cup diced celery
Enough mayonnaise to blend
Peel carrots and apples and put through a meat grinder. In a large bowl blend with remaining ingredients. Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Carrot salads have not always been reserved for Easter and spring celebrations, however.
As part of the November 1981, Holiday Dinners lineup, Southern Living included a recipe from Mrs. Robert H. Kirk of Winchester, Virginia, for Carrot-Ambrosia Salad, a concoction so fruity and sweet it may actually have been a dessert masquerading as a side dish.
1 pound carrots, shredded
1 (8-oz.) carton sour cream
1 (20-oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained
3/4 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup flaked coconut
3/4 cup miniature marshmallows
Combine all ingredients, tossing well. Chill. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
You cannot talk about the many iterations of carrot salad without mentioning the very polarizing and very jiggly congealed salad. Thumb through a selection of community cookbooks and you will be hard pressed to come up with a single fruit, vegetable, or seafood that was not included in a colorful and tantalizing congealed salad. Carrots, oranges, and pineapples were often mixed together with brightly hued jello (oftentimes lime), poured into a beautiful copper mold to chill, and then served atop a bed of lettuce leaves.
Some cooks still love these congealed salads, while others look for simpler ways to use fresh carrots in a salad. The Sunny Day Salad, sent in by Jane Marion from Cary, North Carolina in 1991, employs easy ingredients such as canned peach halves, lettuce, shredded carrots, pineapple bits, raisins and maraschino cherries to create a no-fuss, simple and pretty side salad – no mayonnaise or dressing needed.
For a new take on carrot salad, give this colorful Zucchini-Carrot Salad with Catalina Dressing a try. Or consider this recipe for Grated Carrot Salad from cookbook author David Lebovitz. A crisp and fresh blend of grated carrots and chopped parsley is dressed with an unassuming yet tasty dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, sugar and ground pepper. Lebovitz suggests eating this salad with your fingers; it is just that good. If you are serving it for Easter dinner, however, you may want to avoid the raised eyebrows of your guests and offer forks to go along with the salad.