When was the last time you gave any thought to apricot Jell-o? Prior to finding a recipe for “apricot mold” among my late grandmother Jessie’s recently discovered recipes, I associated apricot Jell-o with a dorm-mate from the University of Chicago.
In my orientation week as a first-year student in the College there, a very bright young woman seemed to tell everyone in our “house” immediately that she liked to “take baths in apricot Jell-o!” Her name will not appear here, as she is now a lawyer and one can only surmise what could happen…. She either had just turned or was about to turn 16 years old – very bright and precocious. The apricot Jell-o reference was one many of us remembered. Another friend from our dorm actually wrote into the UChicago alumni magazine with this anecdote recently.
The University of Chicago figured prominently in Jessie’s life, as she lived in Hyde Park, where it is located, for many decades. Both her children went to the College, as did three of her grandchildren. As for apricots, Jessie relished apricots in desserts, e.g., her apricot strudel or the “mystery” dough, which I filled with apricot butter in tribute to her.
As for Jell-o, the link is a bit more tenuous. (Note my usage of the trademarked name with its hyphenated spelling; I really do not use other brands, so I will recognize this classic American dessert by its trademark.) I remember that Jessie often had boxes of Jell-o in her kitchen cabinets, where I was searching for packaged cookies she always had on hand. Jessie also had boxes of a whipped topping called “Dromedary,” which made me think of camels (of course!). But who wants to think of camels in conjunction with dessert?!? I do remember the occasional Jell-o mould at family dinners, though I do not seem to recall apricot.
Apricot Jell-o was not one of the oldest flavours for this dessert, I discovered in my research. I looked into whether it was still available, after not being able to scrounge up a box on a trip to Sidney, BC on big Vancouver Island yesterday – it really is an extremely big land mass. Two supermarkets there stocked many flavours except for this apricot. Had it been all used up in baths, by young lawyers-to-be, I wondered. So I decided to substitute its closest fruit substitute, peach, which actually debuted in 1907 – just a few years after Jessie’s birth – making it one of the oldest flavours.
For the dessert itself and the detailed recipe…