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Eat Like a Freshman: Frozen Fruit Salad

Our kitchen mad scientist tries out an unholy marriage of marshmallows, ketchup, and steak sauce.

Esther Seidlitz
August 30, 2022
Frozen Fruit Salad

Photo by Esther Seidlitz

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups pineapple tidbits, drained (reserve liquid)
  • 1 cup peach slices, drained
  • 1 cup pear halves, drained
  • ¼ cup maraschino cherries, quartered
  • 1 small package miniature marshmellows [sic]
  • 2 oz. pecans, chopped
  • ¾ tbsp. unflavored gelatin
  • ¼ cup cold pineapple juice
  • ¼ cup hot pineapple juice
  • 1 tbsp. tomato catsup
  • 1 pint heavy cream, whipped
  • 1 ½ pint non-fat dry milk, whipped*
  • ½ cup Heinz 57 salad dressing**

Procedure: 

Combine pineapple and next 5 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Soften gelatin in cold pineapple juice. Dissolve in hot juice. Stir in catsup. Refrigerate until consistency is like soft jelly. Combine gelatin mixture with fruits. Combine whipped cream and whipped dry milk. Fold in salad dressing. Fold cream mixture into fruit mixture. Pour into pan and freeze until firm (about 4 hours). Cut in squares and serve each on a lettuce leaf. Garnish if desired. 

Note: Take out of freezer ½ hour before serving and place in refrigerator.

*To whip dry milk, take ¼ cup dry milk, ¼ cup cold water, and 1 tbsp. lemon juice. Whip until nearly stiff; then add 2 tbsp. sugar. 

**Salad dressing: Mayonnaise can be used and add a little Heinz 57 Sauce.

If you’ve kept up with our “Eat Like a Freshman” column, you may be asking yourself, “What’s with all the salads?” As we’ve pointed out before, vintage, gelatinous masses are plentiful and varied in the UW Archives. All interesting mixtures deserve to be brought into the light of day to celebrate and/or shudder at. Just put them back in the refrigerator before the mayonnaise turns.

You may also think that we’ve missed the seasonal boat for refreshing fruit salads. Not to worry — you’ll be able to make this concoction of canned fruits, bottled condiments, and powdered dairy year-round, no matter where you live. No doubt that’s why the chefs at Elizabeth Waters included the recipe in the Liz Specials 1965 cookbook: it’s fancy, nearly imperishable, and certainly unique. The unholy marriage of marshmallows, ketchup, and steak sauce particularly caught my eye. I had to find out if it was an unexpectedly great combo, or simply another everything-but-the-kitchen-sink vintage Jell-O salad.

Disclaimers: 

Before I give you my review, I admit I did not follow the recipe to the letter. I lay the blame partially on the recipe itself. It only listed a “small package of miniature marshmellows.” I’m confident in my assumption that the writer meant sweet mini pillows of mallow, not mellow moments in the marsh. But I’m not confident that the package was the right size. I ended up using only half the bag in the final mixture because I was afraid of a serious toothache. 

I also swapped in walnuts for the pecans because that’s what I had on hand. And I’ve never whipped dry milk before. The recipe explains how to do it, and with some extra Googling, I learned that it takes several rounds of chilling and finicking to get the rehydrated milk whipped properly. I didn’t have the patience for it and moved on with not-quite-whipped dry milk. The last thing I willfully did wrong was to reserve much of the salad-dressing-and-whipped-cream mixture for a topping after the de-molding process. It seemed like way too much compared to the amount of fruit I had prepped.

Review:

It didn’t taste nearly as interesting as I thought it might. The ketchup and steak sauce added a pinkish hue to the cream and perhaps the tiniest amount of zing. I don’t think you’d know either condiment was in there at all if you didn’t see the recipe. The predominant flavor is sweetness from the cherries and marshmallows, plus quite a bit of cream. 

The tinge of pink did nothing to improve the salad’s appearance. Despite the garnish of lettuce, cherries, and my amateur piping skills, the final presentation looked like a raw circular meatloaf. I’m not sure how a fruit salad could be so devoid of color, but the fact is, you’d get more vibrancy out of a can of fruit cocktail.

The texture was also unfortunate. I left my salad in a ring mold to freeze overnight, transferred it to the fridge to begin thawing, and then set it in a hot-water bath for a moment before unmolding. This resulted in a melted, foamy, slimy exterior with a solid ice block inside. To be fair to the creator of this recipe, I was supposed to cut frozen squares out of a cake pan. But my hubris told me to be extra and use a vintage mold. Had I exercised more humility, the texture would have been better. 

My favorite part about this recipe was the process. Mixing gelatin, ketchup, and pineapple juice together in my beaker/Pyrex measuring cup and coming up with a smelly gel made me feel like a mad scientist. Or, more accurately, like a little kid playing out mad scientist experiments in the kitchen. Speaking of which, there’s a lot of prep and steps in this recipe, and a whole lot of dirty dishes. It’s a time-consuming and messy undertaking, and I don’t believe this frozen fruit salad is worth it. 

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