Until the 1890s, gelatine or gelatin — a substance made from the collagen in animal skin and bones — was odorless, colorless and tasteless. Along came carpenter and cough remedy maker Pearle B. Wait from LeRoy, New York. His 1897 experiments added fruit flavoring to the gelatin to make a dessert his wife, May, named Jell-O. And the rest is history. (Keep reading for Jell-O Dessert recipes and some other great recipes you'll want to try.)
Wait sold his formula to another LeRoy resident, Orator Frank Woodward, known as O.F., for the tidy sum of $450. Woodward began manufacturing Jell-O in 1899, with the help of Andrew Nico of Lyons, New York. In a moment of gloom — sales had been abysmal — Woodward offered the Jell-O formula to Nico for a mere $35. Before the deal could go through, however, an advertising campaign took root and sales began to skyrocket.
Woodward’s Genesee Pure Food Co. first used the name “Jell-O” in 1900. Postum bought the company in 1925, which became General Foods in 1927. Another ad campaign in the 1930s spelled out “J-E-L-L-O” as a sponsorship of the Jack Benny radio show. And the 1950s saw the popularity soar for molded gelatin salads, with sales booming.
The 1960s found Jell-O promoted as a light dessert, with the advertising slogan, “There’s always room for Jell-O.” In 1989, General Foods merged with Kraft Foods.
Originally only four flavors of Jell-O were offered: orange, lemon, strawberry and raspberry. Lime joined the group in 1930. Currently, 40 flavors of powdered Jell-O are on the market along with 11 prepared Jell-O gelatin snack combinations, 57 pudding products and eight NoBake desserts.
You can learn more about Jell-O and its history at the Jell-O Gallery, a museum on Main Street in LeRoy, which now has a population of about 7,600.
Jell-O has come a long way since 1897. Now check out the family favorite Jell-O dessert recipes sent in by our readers along with Pickled Mushroom Recipes, Divinity Candy Recipes and more.
JELL-O DESSERT RECIPES FROM GRIT READERS
Sandra Ward, Sacramento, California, requested a Lemon Jell-O Cake recipe she remembered from the 1950s or ’60s. It included a white or yellow cake mix and lemon-flavored gelatin.
JELL-O DESSERT RECIPES FROM KRAFT'S KITCHEN
Jell-O Frozen Freedom Pops Recipe
Jell-O Chocolate-Glazed Turtle Pie Recipe
Strawberry Jell-O Dessert Yogurt Bites Recipe
Marshmallow Crispy Lemon Pudding Pie Recipe
Raspberry-Pomegranate Jellies Recipe
Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Jell-O Pretzel Dessert Bars Recipe
Warm Caramel Apple Pudding Cake Recipe
EASY FRUITCAKE RECIPES
Pat Brinkman, Oroville, Washington, is searching for a recipe for fruitcake that was on the back of a mincemeat jar in the 1970s. She calls it the best fruitcake she’s ever made.
While we didn’t mention the brand of mincemeat, many of the response recipes include None Such Mincemeat, which Pat mentioned in her original note. Visit None Such Recipes for more mincemeat recipes.
PICKLED MUSHROOM RECIPES
Shirley Baumbach, Stokes, North Carolina, requests a recipe for Pickled Mushrooms, writing, “I have been looking for this recipe for years. In the 1970s, the owner of a mushroom farm near Wheaton, Illinois, gave me a recipe that was super. After many moves, the recipe is long gone.”
DIVINITY CANDY RECIPES
Yvonne Lavender, London, Arkansas, has lost her recipe for Never-Fail Divinity.
• Pat Upchurch, Ardmore, Oklahoma, writes, “My brother served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and my mother used to send him boxes of Pineapple-Coconut Candy — with pecans if we had any. After Mother passed away, I looked for the recipe but couldn’t find it. My nephew has heard of the candy and would like to taste it.”
• Judy Stevens, New Boston, Texas, hopes someone knows the recipe for an orange pancake syrup she remembers from trips to Webb’s City, a precursor to Walmart, that was in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, in the 1950s. Her grandfather would take them to Webb’s City, owned by Doc Webb, where the boys would get haircuts, gasoline sold at 17 to 19 cents a gallon, and they would grocery shop. They would then go to Trainmore Cafeteria.
• John Kasavicha, North Hoosick, New York, is looking for a recipe for a fish stew or soup that appeared in GRIT in the early 1970s. He says it was delicious over rice.
• Eileen White, Ridgeley, West Virginia, remembers her aunt making a great oatmeal fruit cookie back in the 1940s, and she thinks the recipe came from GRIT. She calls it “the best cookie ever.”
• Charlene Clark, West Lafayette, Indiana, remembers a pizza burger made with spiced luncheon meat that was a favorite when she was in elementary school. She would like something similar to the recipe used at Clarks Hill Elementary School in Clarks Hill, Indiana.
If you’ve been looking for a long-lost recipe, or can provide one, please write to Recipe Box, c/o GRIT, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609, or email us (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please include your name, address and daytime phone number. Recipes cannot be returned, as they are eventually sent to the person requesting the recipe. Recipe requests and responses will be printed at our discretion and as space allows. Addresses are not printed to allow GRIT the opportunity to publish recipes before sending them on to the requesting party.