There’s something so quintessentially 1950s about this recipe. This one recipe from the folks at Dole Pineapples captures so many of the characteristics of America’s food traditions at this time.
First of all, pineapple was incredibly popular during the post-war period, owing much to the soldiers who served in the Pacific and the increased availability of canned and even fresh pineapple in supermarkets. The fruit had this exotic aura in people’s imagination – that it somehow captured far away, sunny locales in every bite. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to see a whole pineapple set by itself as a table centerpiece at a dinner party.
Couple that with the popularity of gelatin products like Jell-o, and the cleverness and ease of using the can the pineapple came in and the recipe was a win-win. So much so that the Dole advertised the recipe in different variations and flavors for over a decade.
Now of course, I think Jell-o fruit suspensions remind people of school cafeteria lunches and they avoid it. But perhaps if you’re looking for a visually interesting and easy dish for summer picnics or pot-lucks, you’ll give this retro recipe a try!
After draining the juice from the can, center the pineapple slices in the middle of the can so that when the gelatin is poured in, it surrounds the rings completely.
You can use any flavor of gelatin that you desire. I chose lime simply because most of the Dole advertisements used this flavor.
I was slightly flummoxed by the directions to use half the water of the gelatin’s box recipe – as Jell-o gives three different ways to make it, each using different amounts of boiling and cold water. To complicate it more, I measured 3/4 cup juice from the can. So, knowing I could only get 3/4 cup of gelatin in the can, I boiled that much water to dissolve the Jell-o and it worked just fine.
Let it set in the fridge at least four hours just to be safe.
Dole has changed their cans since the 1950s. Now there is a key on them that you use to open the can without a can opener. This leaves a metal rim on the inside of the mouth of the can. Foolishly, I tried to press the mould through this, which ruined the mould’s smooth exterior. Instead, remove the can from the fridge, warm the sides under water as suggested in the recipe, open the bottom of the can with the can opener – and then take the bottom metal, and use it to push the mould from the top. This should make for a prettier presentation, and let’s face it – when it comes to this recipe, it’s mostly about the presentation.
Despite my difficulty in getting it out of the can, it turned out pretty well. Unlike most Jell-o moulds that are mostly Jell-o with bits of fruit, this recipe is primarily fruit with a bit of Jell-o. Personally, I like this balance a bit better.
As you would imagine, it is remarkably easy to make, and minimizes the amount of dishes you have to clean, and as such, the advertisement was marketed toward housewives in magazines like Ladies Home Journal and Women’s World. Today, of course, it would be more of a novelty – a fun project to do with kids, or a contribution to a Mad Men-themed dinner party.
But why limit it to that? Really, it’s so simple and light that it shouldn’t be relegated to whimsical nostalgia. And lest any of your friends should be so uncouth to criticize the vulgarity of a mould that includes can rings, remind them of the popularity of tinned jellied cranberry sauce so popular during the holidays.
This treat would have been served either as a side-dish with a meal (it wouldn’t be bad with ham, for example), or as a dessert with whipped cream or Cool Whip as a topping. If you’re feeling particularly retro, give it a good dollop of cottage cheese. Now, if you’re feeling ESPECIALLY retro, try the same thing with a drained can of green beans.
Just pour off liquid from a No. 2 can of Dole Sliced Pineapple. Replace with gelatin (made with half the water in package directions). Chill until set. Run a little hot water on can sides and bottom to loosen. Then cut bottom from can and use to push mold out. Cut between pineapple slices and serve.