Partridgeberry Jelly Salad has become a family staple for every holiday meal
Partridgeberry Jelly Salad? Oh, back to the 70’s you say? That was the era of the jelly salad explosion, wasn’t it? I was there. I should know.
I hadn’t had made or eaten a jelly salad for over 20 years, but this bejewelled globe is completely irresistible and such a lovely compliment to rich dark turkey. I made it last Christmas for the first time, after being gifted with a generous amount of partridgeberries by my gal pal, Emily Mardell.
Visiting Newfoundland in 2014, I was introduced to the Partridgeberry by Tineke Gow at the Artisan Inn in Trinity NL. She actually sent me home with a jar of her famous Partridgeberry Jam. I yet to write about staying at her dreamy property. Sometimes the most precious memories are the most difficult to convey.
Emily and I bonded last year over our shared passion for the Partridgeberry. We spend a day in the kitchen with her mom, Joy, and daughter, Cela, making jam, the famed and delicious Newfoundland White Bread, Toutons and Fried Cod Tongues. During that time, I learned of this esteemed family recipe that traditionally accompanies all turkey dinners “at home”. When Joy sent me the recipe, I giggled. So simple. Can it really be “that irresistible”? Oh, yes it can. Ask my mom. Ask my daughter. Ask me. We love the sparkle, bounce, and sassy little-unexpected burst of tart Partridgeberry zest that pairs so perfectly with our turkey dinner. Thank you, once again, Emily, for providing me with enough berries for the Christmas Salad, the Easter Salad and the Thanksgiving Salad to come. Emily’s GetJoyFull “Fill up on Family Time” is a favourite of mine! Below, Cela is foraging Partridgeberries on a trip home to see Nana and GiGi.
Partridgeberry Jelly Salad: Mis en Place
It has also been over 20 years since I have cracked open a box of flavoured Jell-O. It’s still mighty tasty. I do have enough sour cherries to make the base with real cherry puree and gelatin, but don’t think that would be an appropriate use of the amount of produce used to create this salad. Yet, the thought has not been lost on me. I can see a cherry gelatin purée with Partridgeberries and apples rearing its head in my family kitchen this fall as a very special finale to a lovely late summer meal. In any case, the recipe read: one cup of frozen berries, one cup of diced apples, a large box of Cherry Jell-O, 4 cups water, and a tablespoon of vinegar. Somehow, I had imagined more…
Partridgeberry Jelly Salad: Making the Jell-O
Two cups of boiling water are stirred into the package of Jell-O til completely dissolved and softened. Then I added the vinegar and the 2 cups of cold water. The mixture was still very warm, so into the fridge for 1/2 hour to cool down enough to embrace the frozen berries without shocking the beejeebies out of them.
Partridgeberry Jelly Salad: Preparing the Fruit
Time to dice the apples. My way of thinking when preparing anything with mixed fruit of vegetables: all ingredients should be of similar size. As the berries are small, I diced the apples accordingly. I find this creates a gorgeous visual with equal distribution as well as a lovely mouthfeel. However, one regular apple measured to a full cup and a half. What to do. Hmmm? Having made this at Christmas, I had more than my mold would hold; yet I had an 8 cup mould. Not sure how that happened, but I decided to think like a woman in her Newfoundland kitchen, likely 40 years ago when this salad reared its head. Would I just use 1 cup of each fruit when one apple was diced into a cup and a half? Nope. I added another 1/2 cup of berries. I decided to interpret the recipe as equal portions of apple and berries.
See? Similar sizes. Equal portions.
Partridgeberry Jelly Salad: Making the Jelly Salad
Instead of mixing the fruit with the now cold but not yet thickened Jell-O, I decided to add the fruit to the mold and pour the cool liquid Jell-O over it.
Good decision. There is plenty of glistening cherry Jell-O, plenty of fruit and about 1/3 cup of leftover liquid.
I added a couple of tablespoons of frozen berries to the extra liquid, and refrigerated all, carefully. The mold must be level. It is important to set the timer. The frozen berries speed up the set and in 10 minutes the mixture needs to be stirred to ensure better suspension of the fruit. One or two more stirs about 5-10 minutes apart to complete that process and then let the salad chill until ready for dinner.
Partridgeberry Jelly Salad: Unmolding the Salad
Place a plate on top of the jelly and turn the firm jelly inside of the mold over onto the plate. My mid-1970’s Tupperware mold has a beautiful release.
I simply unseal the top, and the entire salad plops onto the plate in relief. Ahhh! So pretty!
Mom used her mold so many times in those years, always decorating the middle heart, star, or tree with mayonnaise. Sugared Partridgeberries would be pretty piled in the middle garnished with mint leaves, but I didn’t bother.
Our family holiday meals used to be much more festive and lavish. With my dad and sister both gone and my daughter and her family rarely here during the holiday meal, my mom, my daughter, and my husband forgive my lack of lustre and finesse and appreciate, instead, the comfort and informality of really good food with those you love.
Partridgeberry Jelly Salad: Serving the Salad
Buffet style is now the modus operandi for our holiday meals these days. We always sit in the dining room at a formally set table at Christmas. Easter and Thanksgiving? Not usually. If there’s just the four of us – no. We have cocktails, always. Mom would have it no other way. Her once a week Gin and Tonic before Sunday Supper is her favourite course of the week, and the more generous pour at a holiday meal is always looked forward to. There are no more appetizers. We can’t eat so much anymore. That used to be such a creative addition to each holiday meal. No more soup course, either. Just the meal followed by some games and a visit with dessert much later. After serving this Partridgeberry Jelly Salad at Christmas, when mom and Ragan spied it on the buffet for this Easter meal, they both expressed approval. That was later followed by those endearing sounds of pleasure not missed a bit by my waiting ears (cocked keenly to capture every “yum”).
Homemade cranberries were also on the buffet, but I found the Partridgeberry Salad took their place on the dinner plate.
But, the next day, on mom’s homemade prairie buns, turkey with homemade cranberry sauce is an absolute must. Dad’s turkey bun sandwiches are as looked forward to the day after the turkey as the festive meal is the day prior to the holiday!
Traditional Newfoundland Partridgeberry Jelly Salad
This recipe was given to me by Joy Burt, Emily Mardell's mom. Emily provided the partridgeberries and Joy provided a regional traditional holiday recipe that the family loves. If you can get the berries, this is a delicious celebration of them during holiday season.
- 1 large package Cherry Jell-O
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 1 cup apple chopped
- 1 cup partridgeberries frozen
Prepare jelly mold
Follow package directions on Jell-O box and add vinegar; chill until cold (about 30 minutes)
Stir well; place apples and berries into fruit mold
Pour cold Jell-O over fruit in mold (there may be a small amount of Jell-O left over); chill
Revisit refrigerator in 10 minutes, stirring 2 more times before set to evenly suspend fruit in gelatin
Chill till set; remove from mol