Monday, May 28, 2012

Berry Jello Pretzel Salad in Pennsylvania

I approached the small vehicle, eager to climb it, as I was in a rush. As it climbed the mountain slowly and diagonally, the panoramic view of the green valley opened up before me, as if a curtain had been opened. My mind floated, as if I had been travelling in a hot-air balloon. I was on the inclined plane in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
My next stop was at a factory founded in 1934 that made one of my most favorite ingredients/desserts! At O'Shea's, the makers of my most recent chocolate easter egg bunny were busy creating confections, which were like brown treasure chests filled with different shades of precious metals.
And last but not least, in the countryside around the town, I enjoyed travelling among tall pine trees, where you can spot deer skipping across the road. Or seeing an occasional dairy farm.
History of the Recipe
Its addictive salty pretzel crust, the firmness of the gelatinous strawberry layer, the ever-luscious cream cheese, and the delicious mixture of flavors... That is what I recall of a strawberry jello pretzel salad I tasted 20 years ago in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a time when sea salt caramel or dark chocolate and sea salt were not in vogue yet. This memory motivated me to finally look up an online recipe and make it.
There is not too much information about the pretzel jello salad recipe, but some cooks state that they have been making it for at least forty years.
As for its main ingredient, gelatin was discovered in the 1680´s and was commercially patented in the 1750´s in England. It is obtained from meat bone tissue by boiling. Jello began to be sold in the U.S. in 1897, and later around the world in 1964.


1 cup pretzels, crushed and ground as finely as possible (approx. 4 oz., or half of a 9 oz. bag)
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350º. Use flavorful pretzels; the better the quality of your pretzels, the tastier the crumb layer will be. After you have ground your pretzels, add the melted butter and sugar and mix well. Press into an 8 or 9" round springform pan. Place in oven for 10 minutes. Take care to not overcook. Let it cool before preparing the cream layer.

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Cool Whip or whipped cream
Let the cream cheese get soft. Cream it with the sugar until it is well blended. Fold in the cool whip. If you prefer to use whipping cream, beat 1/2 cup of whipping cream with 1 tablespoon sugar, then fold into the mix.
Place the cream mixture on top of the cooled pretzel layer and let set in the refrigerator until it is solid.

1 cup boiling water
3 oz. raspberry jello
10 oz. berries (make the combination you like. I placed 5 oz. of a raspberry-blueberry-blackberry-strawberry mix in the cooling jello, then placed fresh strawberry-heart slices and fresh blueberries on top of the jello).
Mix the raspberry jello powder into the cup of boiling water, then let it cool. Add frozen berries, then let it set in the refrigerator. When it is semi solid, then you can place it on the solid cream layer.


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