The Joys of Jell-O: Corned Beef Loaf

It took me a long time to write this post today, because it took me a long time to steel myself up for what I had to eat.

Corned Beef Loaf.

This recipe comes from a 1931 pamphlet entitled Thrifty Jell-O Recipes to Brighten You Menus.  This booklet is largely characterized by illustrations of supremely elegant ladies dining upon Jell-O, including Jell-O entrees.  Take a moment to imagine what Jell-O entree entails.  According to this pamphlet, it could be “chicken mousse;” it could be “molded crab meat;” but today, it will be beef. Corned Beef.

Of course I was intrigued to try this recipe; something so bizarre and unthinkable in today’s culinary world begs to reexamined, brought to light for the wonder or horror it truly is.  So I bravely dissolved a packet of lemon Jell-O in hot water, beef stock, and Worcestershire sauce.  After chilling it for 30 minutes, I folded in Dijon mustard.  And then I un-canned the corned beef.

Although I have access to an incredibly diversity of products in my neighborhood, I’ve always had trouble tracking down fresh corned beef.  And since Jell-O is designed to be the ultimate convenience food, it didn’t make sense to me to make corned beef from scratch.  However, my grocery store does have an impressive selection of canned meats, and I selected one of several brands of tinned corned beef.

When it came time to fold the corned beef into the partially set jello, I cracked the can open.  To my horror, it smelled exactly like cat food.  I wasn’t sure if that made me sad about canned corned beef or envious of cats.

The canned meat was already ground, so I spooned it into the Jell-O, mixed it together, and poured it into a loaf pan.  It went into the fridge overnight to get good and hard.  And today came the fateful day when I had to eat the thing.

For various reasons, this has been an emotional week for me.  And all of my emotions came to a head as I decanted my Beef Loaf on the kitchen table, and shakily lifted a spoonful of wobbly beef and Jell-O entree to my lips.

I had a little freak out.  My eyes teared up.  “Eat it!” my roommate yelled at me, waggling his finger with conviction.  “You have to!”

“I don’t want to!”  I pleaded.  My mind was reeling–what had I done? Why was I doing this to myself?

I gently let the gelled meat touch my lips, and sucked in just the tiniest nibble nibble of beef loaf.  The first taste was vaguely reminiscent of miracle whip, or a ham salad sandwich.  I would like to say that after that first taste, the Corned Beef Loaf was a delightful surprised.  That it tasted much better than it looked or smelled.

I would like to say that, but I can’t.  I swooshed around the lemon Jell-O and ground meat in my mouth.  The texture and taste are difficult to describe, but imagine if you made lemon Jell-O AND THEN PUT GROUND MEAT IN IT.  I gagged.

It’s all over.

Tomorrow, what Jack Benny has to do with Jell-O.

18 Responses to “The Joys of Jell-O: Corned Beef Loaf”

  • Bwalahahahblagh…yuck!

    Okay, maybe this sounds better. Here’s my grandmother’s Jell-O recipes (or one’s she used)…

    1. Lime Jell-O + 7-Up + crushed pineapple + maraschino cherries + cottage cheese
    2. Orange Jell-O + shredded carrot + crushed pineapple

    Also, my mom used to make this and I talked with her about it…we think this is how it was made (a recipe she found)…

    Strawberry Jell-O (jiggler recipe) + frozen strawberries + crushed pineapple + walnuts mixed and put in a large casserole (so a thin-ish layer)…let set and then layer a thin topping of sour cream. It’s really good!

  • You rule! Talk about taking one for science. Your adventure with lemon/beef flavored Jell-o was the first thing to make me laugh after a very crummy day.

    • I too have an old jello recipe book and have been trying out recipes. I have not yet gotten up the nerve to try the ones involving meat. You have inspired me. There is one with tuna fish in it that I will be trying next!!!

  • I love this series! Emotion is running high, Jell-O has penetrated every surface of your kitchen, and yet you soldier on.

  • That is the most revolting idea I have ever heard… you are the bravest woman on the planet to try it… good for you, Sarah! What were they thinking??? Aspic for dummies???

  • I think aspic for dummies might be exactly what it is! I’ve never had aspic…maybe I should do a week of it.

    Summer – you’re grandmother’s recipe sound pretty good, I have to admit. If you, or anyone, gets inspired to mix up some retro Jell-o treats, send me a description and some photos and I’ll post it on this blog!

    And and I’m so pleased I could make everyone laugh this morning. It was all worth it.

  • You go Sarah – Don Wilson would have been proud!! We must talk about Jello Recipes though…I got a Jello radio premium cookbook on Ebay a few years ago and LOVE it. But it’s all desserts. And so far I’ve only made the ones without Jello, which is a product that I have never actually eaten. But you are my new role model.

  • What the fuck is wrong with you Lohman?

  • If you like corned beef, check out this recipe for Corned Beef Salad Loaf:

  • can you please help me find the instructions for an old Corned Beef/jello recipe that I have from my Grandmother. The ingredients are-

    1 pkg. lemon jello
    3 beef bullion cubes
    1 1/2 cups boiling water
    3 oz cream cheese-cut up
    1 cp salad dressing
    1/2 cp celery
    1/2 cup green and/or red peppers
    1/4 cp onion
    1 can corned beef – cubes
    4 hard boiled eggs- to top

    I want to make it in 3 weeks, but am at a loss!! Can you help?

  • anything yet? It has been almost a full minute!1 (~B

    • Ok, here’s what I would do:

      Dissolve the bullion cubes in the hot water. Add the lemon jello and stir until it’s dissolved.

      At this point you can either 1. stir in both the cream cheese and the salad dressing or 2. divide your bullion jell-o in half, and stir cream cheese in one half and salad dressing in the other.

      Chill until slightly thickened, then divide your veggies and beef in half and stir into each jello half. Pour the salad dressing Jell-o into a mold; return it to the fridge until it is set; then pour the cream cheese half on top.

      This recipe will help you some:

      Good luck!!!!

  • First belly laugh of the day! Thank you! I remember those cans of corned beef, but they were less offensive than you described. It was chunky with some gelatin stuff in it. Truthfully, as a kid I liked it, probably because it was salty as all get out! One small can fed our family of four, with potatoes and canned green or yellow beans (in the winter) topped with a splash of milk. To this day, I don’t know others who put a splash of milk on vegetables. Maybe a throw back to when that was supper? Just the veggies and maybe some bread? Any thoughts?

  • This was a great post!
    But I think the lemon jello was the problem ingredient. Sweet and artificially lemon does not mix with corned beef. Maybe switching to unflavored gelatin would have been better.

  • I thought the recipe was possibly a ‘gimmick’ to stir up jello. then I searched that gelatin was invented in the mid-1800s. could this actually be something to attempt making? Im not sure I want to waste good jello or corned beef. if anything sarah I would like to know if jello/cornedbeef could be made green in color. st. pats day corned beef jello shots? delicious or sacrilegious?

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