Martha Stewart Living (November 2011)
You know how people like to make fun of Martha Stewart by saying how unnecessarily complicated her recipes can be? And you always feel the need to defend her, but your friend is all, "Oh no, it's like, 'Here's a recipe for roast chicken. First step, raise a free-range chicken from birth before killing and dressing it.' " And you're all, "Whatever, some of her recipes may involve a few steps, but it's worth it." But your friend is all, "No way, it's ridiculous and over-complicated."
This is the kind of recipe your friend is talking about.
Here's what Martha's gelatin looks like:
We love the look of this Cranberry Pomegranate Gelatin. There's something so deliciously old-school about it, and the kitschy turkey mold that Martha used just sealed the deal. (We don't have a turkey mold. We came this close to buying one just for this gelatin, but we couldn't justify spending the $30. So we used refrigerator glass. More on that in a sec.)
So, the recipe. It's a lot. There are several different steps of cooking, cooling and assembling. And the thing is, you essentially have to wait and do everything sequentially. Step 1, for example, involves cooking the pomegranate gelatin and letting it "cool completely" before pouring it into the mold and then refrigerating it for 1 1/2 hours. That's more than 2 hours of prep time before you can even add the second layer. (And there are three layers).
All totaled, this recipe took us the better part of 6 hours. We're happy to spend 6 hours on a recipe if it's worth it. But for one thing, with cooking, cooling and assembling the three layers (not to mention placing the clementines in there), this is a pretty active 6 hours. We're not saying it's difficult, exactly. But this isn't a set-it-and-forget-it type of recipe.
And the final result just didn't look like anything near 6 hours of work. Part of the problem -- and we freely admit to being at fault on this -- is that we couldn't get the gelatin out of the dish. Since we didn't want to pony up the cash for a mold, we used a 5-cup glass refrigerator container. We (incorrectly) assumed that the gelatin would free easily enough from the glass, and so we forged ahead. We tried and tried to dislodge the gelatin once we were ready to serve it, but it wouldn't budge. The recipe note about submerging the bottom of the mold in hot water for a few seconds didn't help.
This is the closest we got to Martha's pretty Thanksgiving gelatin.
So, whatever, we had to spoon it out of the dish rather than serve it as a gorgeous little stand-alone mold. Fine.
It's just that the taste wasn't all that special. As you can see from our first photo up top, you can really see each of the three distinct layers. It's beautiful! But they don't really taste distinct. Some guests said they didn't care for the consistency. (Our friend Ralph said he felt like the gelatin wiggled down his throat.)
In the end, this is six hours of work and a pantry full of ingredients to wind up with a finished product that tastes more or less like cranberry Jell-O.
Do we like cranberry Jell-O? You bet! But cranberry Jell-O takes about 10 minutes from start to finish. Want to get fancy? You can chop up some clementines and throw them in along with some fresh cranberries.
You'll save 5 1/2 hours of work, and $30 at the grocery store. Why, you'll have enough to buy that turkey mold.
This gelatin was formed in a turkey-shaped mold, similar to one by Nordic Ware (nordicware.com), but any 5-cup mold will work. If you prefer, you can prepare two smaller gelatins by dividing the layers between two 3-cup molds.
For The Pomegranate Gelatin
- 2 1/4 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
For The Cranberry Gelatin
- 2 bags (each 12 ounces) fresh or frozen (thawed) cranberries
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 cups cold water
- 2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
- 3 clementines
For The Cranberry Sauce
- 1 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
- 1 1/3 cups fresh orange juice (from 3 to 4 oranges)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 strip (2 inches long) lemon peel
- 1 bag (12 ounces) fresh or frozen (thawed) cranberries
Make the pomegranate gelatin: Place a 5-cup mold in the refrigerator to chill. In a saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup pomegranate juice, and let soften 5 minutes. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, just until gelatin is dissolved; do not let boil. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Stir in remaining 1 cup pomegranate juice, then pour into chilled mold. Skim off foam from surface, and refrigerate until partially set, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the cranberry gelatin: In a saucepan, simmer cranberries, sugar, and 1 2/3 cups water until berries have burst and mixture has thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible, and scraping pulp from bottom of sieve into liquid. Discard solids. You should have about 1 3/4 cups liquid.
In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over remaining 1/4 cup cold water, and let soften 5 minutes. Add about 1/2 cup of strained cranberry liquid to softened gelatin, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until gelatin is dissolved; do not let boil. Let cool completely, then stir gelatin mixture into remaining cranberry liquid in a bowl.
To assemble: Cut peel and pith from clementines, then cut segments free from membranes. Gently blot segments dry with paper towels. Press half of clementine segments into pomegranate layer, and gently pour cranberry gelatin on top. Refrigerate until cranberry gelatin is almost set, about 1 hour.
Make the cranberry sauce: In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 3 tablespoons orange juice, and set aside to soften.
Bring remaining orange juice, the cinnamon stick, sugar, and lemon peel to a simmer in a large saucepan. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Add cranberries and cook, stirring occasionally, until berries have burst and mixture has thickened slightly, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat, and add gelatin mixture, stirring to dissolve. Transfer cranberry sauce to a bowl to cool.
Press remaining clementine segments into cranberry gelatin and gently top with cranberry sauce, spreading evenly in mold. Cover mold and refrigerate 1 day, or up to 3 days.
To serve, dip bottom of mold in a bowl of hot water 10 to 20 seconds, then invert onto a cake stand or serving plate, and carefully remove mold.