When I look at the “old guy” to whom I'm married, I marvel to myself that he is among those of mature age with at least one surviving parent. Mother Bennie is 97 now and lives in a care facility in Memphis under the watchful eye of Mike’s sister. Naturally we think of Bennie every day, but she was especially on my mind yesterday as I made Dr. Pepper Salad. Mike has been a Dr. Pepper fan his whole adult life, and Bennie evidently developed this recipe based on one for Coke salad.
Here’s the recipe for Dr. Pepper Salad as it came to me:
1 3-oz pkg black cherry Jell-O
1 8-oz jar maraschino cherries
1 12-oz can Dr. Pepper
1 3-oz pkg cream cheese
½ to 1 cup chopped nuts (I like pecans.)
Drain fruit and heat juice. Add Jell-O and stir until dissolved. Cool, then add Dr. Pepper. Place in refrigerator until it begins to gel. Add fruit, cheese, and nuts.
I confess I find this recipe a bit problematic. Black cherry Jell-O is requisite (it’s just not the same with regular cherry) and sometimes black cherry is hard to find. Only one store in Lewiston carries it. And I’ve never known what to do with the cream cheese. I mean – you just don’t add a block of cream cheese to Jell-O, even partially gelled Jell-O. After years of experimentation, I now drain the pineapple and cherries, chop the cherries, then gently blend the cream cheese with the fruit. Personally, I like the cream cheese to be a little chunky. If I over blend, then the Jell-O takes on a creamy look and the flavor of the cream cheese is overwhelmed by the sweet Jell-O.
Mike and I were newlyweds when I prepared this salad for a holiday extended family dinner. It was an instant hit, especially with the cousin tier. It is now a tradition at Thanksgiving though many pass it over. My own children aren’t fans. It’s really a dessert salad but we use it on the main buffet table.
I wish I had discussed the recipe with Bennie. I might at least have determined how she prepared the ingredients. But I didn’t talk to her about it because she never prepared it for us or mentioned it, and I’m not sure it was a recipe she treasured. I think maybe she made it for Mike and then she moved on from it. KW