I received a box of various recipes and cookbooks from Ebay a few months ago and found this cookbook enclosed:
There is no date on the book, so I looked up the title of the book and the author (Jean Dumont Le Sage compiled the recipes and the book was published by the Miller Bank Service), I found very little.
- The only thing I can really confirm about Miller Bank Service is that it produced a metal Abraham Lincoln coin bank and published these cookbooks that were distributed to various banks around 1940 (I have seen estimates from 1925 to 1950, but the general consensus seems to be that these were distributed around 1940)
- A Chinese restaurant called Dragon Gate now exists at 6528 North Clark Street in Chicago, which is where Miller Bank Service was located
- First Federal Savings and Loan Association of San Antonio was founded in 1934 and is no longer in existence after a merger somehwere between 1988 and 1990
- Jean Dumont Le Sage is a complete enigma and this compilation seems to be his only claim to fame-there is a Jean Lesage that was the Premier of Quebec but I doubt he spent his time gathering recipes
I found this recipe for Ginger Ale Jelly Salad and went with it because I had all of the ingredients in the house and would not need to purchase a thing. Thank goodness.
I searched Google and found a record of this exact recipe in Woman’s Home Companion in an article called “For Your Bridge Party” by Alice Bradley (Principal of Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery) in their November 1923 issue. It seems to have been taken from Fannie Farmer’s A New Book of Cookery, published in 1912. I’m surprised that 1001 Famous Recipes did not have to credit the source of the original recipe (it is taken verbatim from Fannie Farmer’s version). I guess things were different then. I’m counting this as a recipe from 1940 because I have the cook book from 1940 in my hands and is the one I used.
The recipe is as follows:
1½ cups syrup from canned pears, 1 pt ginger ale, 4 tablespoons or 1 pkg gelatin, 2 cups canned pears, 4 tablespoons cold water, 4 tablespoons canton ginger (if desired), 4 tablespoons sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt*, 1/3 cup maraschino cherries, ½ cup lemon juice. Heat pear syrup to boiling point, add gelatin which has been soaked in cold water 5 to 10 minutes, add sugar and stir until sugar and gelatin are dissolved. Cool, add lemon juice and ginger ale. When beginning to set, stir in canned pears, canton ginger, and cherries all cut into small pieces. Turn into individual molds that have been rubbed wtih salad oil. Let stand until firm, remove from molds, serve on lettuce with mayonnaise dressing combined with an equal amount of whipped cream. Garnish with cherry.
*Note that the recipe says to add salt but does not say where to add it. This is not a mistake on my part.
The first step is to heat the pear syrup to the boiling point:
I found that the juice from about 1½ cans of pears was sufficient.
Next, soak the gelatin in cold water for 5 to 10 minutes and add to the pear juice. This is where things get tricky.
The instructions say to use 4 tablespoons (1 package) of gelatin. I used Knox, and one package of envelopes ended up being approximately 4 tablespoons.
The only water listed in the recipe is “4 tablespoons of cold water” and water is only used in this step, so I assumed that this was the water to be used to dissolve the gelatin.
THIS IS SO WRONG!
This is what happens when you follow the recipe explicitly:
Ok, I’m no cooking expert but this really did not look right. I mean, half of the gelatin did not dissolve. Assuming I was wrong and the recipe was right, I thought that perhaps the rest of the gelatin would dissolve in the boiling pear juice:
This is clearly not good. I made a last ditch effort to save it (still assuming I was being a bad cook) and whisked it.
Now, I had goopy gelatin stuck in my whisk, my pot was covered in slime, and my kitchen had a funny smell. I threw it all away and started doing some research.
Knox recommends dissolving each pouch (approximately a tablespoon when I measured it) in ¼ cup cold water, not 1 tablespoon. They also say that “Each pouch will gel 2 cups (500mL) of liquid and up to 1½ (375mL) cups ) of solid.” By my estimate, I would need 2 pouches to completely gel my recipe.
So I tried it again.
This time, I dissolved 2 packets in ½ cup cold water.
This was much, much better.
I boiled another round of pear juice and was back in business.
The next step is to add the gelatin to the pear juice and add 4 tablespoons of sugar.
Then, cool the mixture and add ginger ale and lemon juice. When beginning to set, add the pears, canton ginger (I omitted this) and cherries.
Finally, put the mixture into individual molds that have been rubbed with salad oil (I sprayed them with canola oil). I was too cheap to buy a mold just for this project and used a muffin tin.
I put the tray into the refrigerator and left it for about 8 hours.
The final instructions are to remove from molds and serve on lettuce with mayonnaise combined with an equal amount of whipped cream. Removing from the mold was the easy part…mixing mayo and whipped cream was the hard part. I thought I was going to be sick just thinking about it. For the sake of authenticity, I went ahead and made it.
The mayo and whipped cream tastes like a sauce that goes with fruit trays that you buy at the grocery store and was not absolutely terrible.
The salad has a mild ginger ale flavor that would have been stronger had I added the additional ginger in the recipe. I liked using the smaller molds because each little mold is enough for one person. Using two tablespoons of gelatin instead of 4 made the recipe very firm and was just enough to make the recipe. The pear and cherries actually compliment the ginger ale flavor very well (I was unsure how this combo would go).
Time Travel Experience: Anything involving gelatin is vintage to me. I enjoyed trying to research the history of the cook book and the organizations involved in it. Were bank cook books actually a thing years ago? All of the versions of this book seem to have been produced for banks or for life insurance companies. I have not seen this exact recipe made frequently online, so I truly felt like I was pulling a recipe out of the past,
Overall Experience: My husband liked “Jello with chunks in it” because it reminded him of his childhood. It had a nice flavor that was not overwhelming. Even the mayo/whipped cream concoction was not terrible. I give this a 7/10 (docking the recipe a point for my gelatin debacle at the beginning). My husband gives this an 8/10. He said he could actually see us making this again. We’ll see…