Buttermilk Congealed Salad (And A Multitude Of Tangents…)
Southerners LOVE congealed salads! We have recipes for them which include all manner of fruits AND vegetables. They are a throwback to days when food was scarce and gelatin was cheap. Door to door salesmen carried a wide array of it and my grandmothers used to delight in purchasing a multitude of what was likely the only convenience food they could afford.
Now some of you are wondering what a congealed salad is at this point as that seems to be a Southern term. A friend of my mothers confessed she had never heard it in her life until she moved to Alabama and asked Mama once, “Why don’t you just call it Jello?”.
Well, that’s a good question. Why don’t we just call it Jell-O salad? I asked Mama and she replied
“Because it is a Congealed Salad”.
Everyone in my family loves congealed salads, but I specifically remember my great grandmother, Lela, eating them. She loved the strawberry ones best, such as this.
Lela was born in 1902 and so by the time I showed up, some seventy plus years later, she was already “on in years” as they would say. Life had not been easy to her but I am happy to say that her later years held considerable comfort as she lived with my Grandmama and Grandaddy.
Anyway, I am going off on a tangent again so I’ll get back to my point but stay tuned because I feel another digression coming . Lela never knew how to drive and she didn’t leave the house much except to visit friends with my grandparents or for her weekly trips to Kroger with Grandmama for groceries. I’ll never forget how she got ready on those days. She would get on her good dress, put on her hose (Lela NEVER wore pants) and slip on her hard leather shoes that clicked loudly when she walked. She’d take a handkerchief and fold it perfectly to place in her coat pocket and hook her sturdy leather handbag on her arm. Then she’d stand in front of the mirror a few minutes, patting her curled white hair carefully in place.
Now, a key thing to know about Lela was that she loved to give things to people. She lived on a small social security check but Grandmama and Grandaddy took care of all of the household expenses so Lela insisted on buying a few groceries. There were three of us kids in my house and we came to visit at least once a week. Each week when she took the trip to Kroger’s, she bought every one of us our own bag of goldfish crackers and a small pack of juicy fruit gum. Each week. Goldfish crackers were quite new then and all the rage. Our family couldn’t afford things like that when we were little, much less a separate bag for each one of us! Lela did this for years and I can still see the smile she’d get as she got up from her chair to go to the kitchen and get us our loot.
As we grew older, the novelty of goldfish crackers wore off but the weekly endowment still held a lot of meaning for all of us. We began saving them in the pantry, while still chewing the gum. After a while, you can just imagine the goldfish crackers which accumulated at our house! It didn’t matter, we loved them whether we ate them or not. Even now, whenever I see a bag in my pantry or even in the grocery store, I think ‘Lela’s thinking of me’, and I buy juicy fruit gum for my kids every now and then because I know if Lela were here she’d get it for them every chance she got.
(Her son, Samp, once mentioned liking a particular can of soup. She began buying him two or three cans each week. He would make over it and smile and thank her and go home to put it in his pantry. He told my grandmother that he counted once and had over fifty cans!)
I’m sure I had a point here somewhere….oh this post was about Buttermilk Congealed salad, wasn’t it? Well you see back in the day, Kroger sold a strawberry buttermilk congealed salad just like this one. Lela bought her a little container of it each week. Oh, do you know what else she did? As they got home and unloaded all of the groceries, Lela immediately took every jarred item (pickles or what not), opened it, closed it again, and put it in the refrigerator. It took my mother quite some time to figure out why it was she did that but now we know. The jar of pickles clearly states “Refrigerate after opening” ~smiles~.
This recipe is from my mother’s cousin, Analoyce. Analoyce was a bit older than Mama and I remember her because as a child we lived next door to her mother (Myrtle Tipton) until I was seven. Myrtle was my great aunt and just a wonderful woman along with her husband, Tip. They had a barn and Tip always let us play in it anytime we wanted. For some reason, we liked swinging on their front porch swing more than ours, too, even though it was exactly the same and only a few yards away! I don’t remember very much about Analoyce other than she was very nice and always wore red, red lipstick.
Wow, this is tangent day for me, isn’t it? Alright so back to the buttermilk salad. Very popular in the south, the taste is just such a divine treat. This is often made with peach or orange gelatin, just use your favorite.