A family potluck this past weekend with my side of the family seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally make my first attempt at “gelatina de mosaico” – A colorful gelatin dessert popular in Mexico and some other Latin American countries. When I told Carlos what I wanted to make, he asked, “Are you sure it isn’t going to be too weird for them?”
He didn’t believe me when I told him, although many gringos may not be familiar with “gelatina de mosaico” specifically, most older generation Americans are not strangers to creative Jell-O dishes, (and some may actually know this exact dish by the name “stained glass bars” or “mosaic dessert bars.”)
I pulled out this old Jell-O cookbook I have in the cabinet. When we moved to this house about 10 years ago, I found it in the kitchen cabinet and decided to keep it; In it are all manner of Jell-O dishes – many of which are much stranger than “gelatina de mosaico.”
Do the math: 1897 + 65 means this cookbook was printed in 1962.
Can I interest you in some shrimp Jell-O? How about some Jell-O with vegetables?
Radishes? Cauliflower? Seems like nothing is off-limits in this Jell-O cookbook.
South of the Border Salad. Hmmm. Should I try this one?
These are called “Crown Jewel” desserts and are very similar to gelatina de mosaico.
Anyway, I ended up making the gelatina de mosaico and it turned out great. Everyone loved it, (and I saw a few people getting seconds!) … The original recipe is on the Jell-O website HERE, but here it is with my adapted step-by-step directions which include some tips to ensure it turns out right!
Gelatina de Mosaico
What you need:
5 1/2 cups boiling water
1 box JELL-O Strawberry Flavor Gelatin
1 box JELL-O Lime Flavor Gelatin
1 box JELL-O Orange Flavor Gelatin
1 box JELL-O Grape Flavor Gelatin
2 envelopes KNOX Unflavored Gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
A note before you begin: As fun as this dessert is when finished, I don’t recommend allowing children to help make it because there is a lot of pouring of boiling water. Also, you will want to make this the night before you want to eat it as it takes several hours to become solid.
1. Clean your fridge! Seriously, don’t skip this step. Make space because you’re going to need it to chill 4 different containers of Jell-O.
2. Put a large pot of water on to boil. (You don’t have to measure out the 5 1/2 cups right now. Just make sure you have more than that in the pot.)
3. While waiting for the water to boil, get your supplies ready. You need 4 large glass cereal bowls. (Whatever type of bowl you use, make sure it can handle boiling hot water.) Empty each packet of flavored Jell-O into a bowl – one flavor per bowl. Strawberry in one bowl. Orange in one bowl. Lime in one bowl. Grape in one bowl. (You don’t need the unflavored gelatin yet. Don’t open it now.)
4. You need 4 rectangular shaped medium-sized containers. (I used disposable cookie sheets but these were a bit larger than needed. I will use something smaller next time.) Spray each rectangular container with cooking spray and set them near the bowls.
5. Once the water is boiling, ladle one cup of the water into a large glass measuring cup. (Leave the rest of the pot boiling while you work.)
6. Carefully pour one cup of boiling water into the bowl containing the strawberry Jell-O powder. Mix about 30 seconds until dissolved. Pour into one of the rectangular containers and put in the refrigerator to chill.
7. Repeat step 6 with the lime, grape and orange flavors. When finished, you will have 4 rectangular containers of Jell-O chilling in the fridge.
8. Turn the heat off for the boiling water, but don’t dump the water out. You’ll need to turn it back on later.
9. Wash up the dishes and then wait at least one hour for the Jell-O to become solid.
10. Put the pot of water back on to boil.
11. Spray a glass or metal baking dish (about 9×13) with cooking spray.
12. Chop the colored Jell-O into pieces. You can make uniform squares or just chop it up randomly – however you want. Put the chopped up Jell-O pieces into the greased baking dish. Set in the fridge.
Note: If you have trouble getting the colored Jell-O out of the rectangular containers so you can chop it, try running a sharp knife around the edges before turning it upside down over a clean surface.
13. In a medium-sized bowl, sprinkle the contents of 2 unflavored gelatin packets over 1/2 cup cold water. Allow to sit for 1 minute.
14. Ladle 1 and 1/2 cups boiling water into the large glass measuring cup. Pour the 1 and 1/2 cups boiling water into the medium-sized bowl of unflavored gelatin. Stir. Add the sweetened condensed milk. Mix well and allow to cool.
Note: If you are too impatient and don’t let it cool enough, your red-colored Jell-O will stain the white Jell-O slightly pink in the next step, which is what happened to mine. It’s still pretty, but most people aim to keep the sweetened condensed milk Jell-O mixture white.
15. Remove the pan of chopped up colored Jell-O from the refrigerator. Pour the sweetened condensed milk Jell-O mixture over the colored Jell-O. You can gently mix this a little bit to distribute the colors to your liking.
16. Put the pan back in the fridge to chill. This will take a couple hours – I left mine in overnight.
17. Once your mosaic gelatin is solid, run a knife along the sides to loosen it up, and then turn it upside down over a clean surface. Cut into bar shapes and place on a serving dish or back in the glass baking dish. Serve or keep refrigerated until ready to serve.