Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The proper Minnesota Jell-O April 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:00 AM
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My friend Kristin made peach Jell-O in a pan.

IN MINNESOTA, WE have hotdish. Not casseroles.

We have lutefisk and lefse and food-on-a-stick.

And then we have Jell-O.

Truly, I thought Jell-O was a thing of the past, even in Minnesota.

But Kristin proved me wrong. She brought a pan of gelatin to Family Game Night at Trinity Lutheran Church on Saturday.

I’ve seen Jell-O made in bowls—even layered in bowls—and shaped into shapes in molds. I’ve seen Jell-O elevated to a plate of honor during a production of How to Talk Minnesotan at the Plymouth Playhouse. But I’ve never seen gelatin in a glass cake pan.

But Kristin, the theatrical type, proved that Minnesotans can get creative with their Jell-O by thinking outside the box inside the box (er, cake pan).

She even stirred peaches into her peach Jell-O and topped it with the ultimate in Jell-O toppings—marshmallows.

And then, sin of sins, she cut the thickened concoction into squares. Doesn’t she know that Minnesotans, or maybe it’s just Lutherans, prefer to dish up their Jell-O with a spoon? We are not the show-off type, you know, serving up fancy Jell-O squares.

But Kristin, as I suggested, fails to conform to conformity. She sometimes makes cranberry Jell-O and adds cranberries.

Did you know Jell-O comes in cranberry flavoring? I didn’t. I thought the flavors were strawberry, strawberry and strawberry.

Did you know, too, that you can actually ruin Jell-O? My friend confessed that she once did just that by adding too much water.

Oh, Kristin, Kristin, Kristin. Perhaps you should stick with the old standby Minnesota Jell-O recipe: Add sliced bananas to partially-thickened strawberry Jell-O.

If you want to get creative, top your bowl full (not pan full) of Jell-O with Cool Whip.

But for gosh sakes, Kristin, please serve your potluck Jell-O with a spoon, not some fancy serving utensil.

A slice of Kristin's peach Jell-O.

DO YOU HAVE ANY interesting stories to share about Jell-O? I’d love to hear yours. So submit a comment to Minnesota Prairie Roots, even if you are a conservative Minnesota Lutheran.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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4 Responses to “The proper Minnesota Jell-O”

  1. Dawn Tietz Says:

    Just last night I was to prepare a jello for a funeral and I had my orange jello and mandarin oranges all ready to go and changed my mind. I had jello eggs left from Easter, so I proceeded to cut them up in a bowl and addded Cool Whip to this. Just like that I had a cubed jello salad ready for a funeral. Not a typical “funeral jello”, but I think it will work none-the-less.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      This is too funny, Dawn. It’s as if I wrote that Jell-O blog post just for you. Funeral Jell-O. I had forgotten about that Minnesota tradition.

      And here’s something more that you’ll appreciate. My friend Kristin told me that she made Jell-O eggs for Easter too. Perhaps Minnesotans love their Jell-O a lot more than I realize.

      My fondest memories of Jell-O are all those extended family birthday celebrations when we always, always had banana-laced strawberry Jell-O.

      Let’s hear some more Jell-O stories.

  2. Kristin Says:

    My aunt’s mother-in-law made the best Jell-O salads! It’s not something you’d find at a DC soiree or even in Ohio all that often, but I sure would like some every once in a while. Fruit. Whipped cream. Jell-O in any and every flavor and color you can imagine. Sigh.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Wow, you must really love Jell-O. Maybe you’ll have to introduce it to your D.C. circle of friends.


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