Jennifer Causey
Active Time:
20 Mins
Total Time:
4 Hours 35 Mins
Yield:
Serves 6 (serving size: 1 slice)

Imagine your grandmother’s sideboard decked out with quintessential Southern dishes for a ladies’ luncheon. Among the serving dishes of creamy salads and platefuls of neatly arranged deviled eggs probably stands a jiggly kaleidoscopic creation in an intriguing shape: her signature gelatin mold.

It’s said that the congealed salad got its start hundreds of years ago in Europe as a dish reserved for the noble class; over time, it made its way across the pond to the American table in the 1930s. Electric refrigerators had hit the market, food was able to keep for longer, and chilled dishes became trendy. Gelatin molds also grew in popularity during the Depression as a cost-efficient, convenient way to use up leftovers and a creative solution for eating fruits and vegetables.

Through the decades, congealed salads were inducted the Southern recipe canon, and soon no church potluck was complete without wiggly, transparent molds dotted with colorful gems of miscellaneous berries. Many classic congealed salads are sweet, but many others were savory. Flipping back through old-school cookbooks from the sixties and seventies, some gelatin salads looked delicious while others sounded downright bizarre.

Which brings us to one particular retro recipe that grabbed our undivided attention: Molded Egg Salad. The combination makes sense: Egg salad and congealed salad are two classic Southern staples, so why not blend them together into a mayonnaisey mold? We did just that in 1972 to create this eyebrow-raising one-dish wonder. Gelatin; hard-cooked eggs; mayo; and veggies like olives, parsley, and celery are mixed in this savory congealed salad. Garnish the chilled mold with additional slices of hard-cooked egg and sprigs of parsley around the sides. If you’re looking to up your vegetable intake for the day, top the salad with green peas and mushrooms. Slice and serve along with saltine crackers.

How to Make It

Step 1

Soften the gelatin in cold water in a heatproof bowl. Add the boiling water, sugar, and lemon juice and stir until the gelatin and sugar are dissolved. Cool.

Step 2

Cut the eggs in half and remove yolks. Mash the egg yolks and mix with 1/3 of the gelatin mixture. Stir in the mayonnaise and pour into a lightly greased (with cooking spray) 6-cup mold. Chill until firm, 2 hours, then sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Step 3

Chill remaining gelatin until thickened, 15 minutes. Chop the egg whites and add to thickened gelatin. Add the celery and olives and mix well. Pour over congealed layer in mold, and chill until firm, 2 hours.

Step 4

Unmold onto a serving plate and garnish with hard-cooked egg slices and parsley sprigs.