Welcome to Jiggle All The Way, The Takeout’s holiday celebration of Jell-O, gelatin, and all things wiggly. We’ll be releasing new feature stories and original holiday recipes every day this week, and each of them will have a little bit of wobble.
A feast is not a true feast without something wiggly on the buffet. Jelled molds have long been the secret weapon of entertainers: they’re kid friendly and adult approved, can be simple or fancy, are inexpensive and easy to prepare, and flesh out a meal with joy-inducing sass. And if you have a sweet tooth, what is better than a dish that could technically be a dessert, but more often than not, shows up on the dinner buffet? When you eat it as a side during the main meal, you leave yourself plenty of space in the actual dessert lineup.
In my family, there is no more revered Jell-O mold than my grandmother Jonnie’s sherbet mold. It is the perfect thing to serve with dinner. Not too sweet, bright and citrusy, and of the light and fluffy style of molds where the semi-gelled liquid is whipped up with more ingredients and then fully chilled to wobbling perfection. It is a really simple one to make, and you can do it with any flavor for which there is a corresponding sherbet available; I have done it with lemon, lime, pineapple, and strawberry. But Jonnie made it exclusively with orange, which continues to be, in my opinion, the best version.
It is a delight alongside any richly savory food, such as roasted chicken, braised brisket, or lamb stew. It serves as an ideal palate cleanser: something cold on a plate of hot, something sweet on a plate of salty. If you whip it just right, it dissolves on the tongue in an almost bubbly, sparkling way that is a textural pleasure.
It is only four ingredients, so, you know, pretty hard to mess up. But if you worry about mangling it in the unmolding process, or don’t own a pretty mold, just chill it in a glass bowl and serve with a spoon. And once dinner is over, just move any leftovers to the dessert buffet. Keep an eye on the initial gelling time, which will likely take between an hour and an hour and a half. And be sure your sherbet is softened or it won’t blend in. I usually move it from the freezer to the fridge about 40 minutes before I plan to whip it up.
Jonnie’s Famous Orange Sherbet Jell-O Mold
- 2 (6-oz.) packages orange Jell-O
- 4 cups boiling water
- 2/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 quart (or 2 pints) orange sherbet, softened in fridge to soft-serve texture, but not melted
Dissolve Jell-O in the boiling water, then add lemon juice. Chill until jelly-like consistency, but not completely gelled—it should have serious wiggle. Blend in softened sherbet with an electric mixer. Pour into a greased mold and chill overnight before unmolding to serve.