Of all the recipes that symbolize mid-century suburban cookbooks, none rise to the grandeur of the aspic: a concoction of savory foods suspended in gelatin. And there’s no wonder it captured the imagination of our moms and grandmoms. The shimmying mass of meat chunks, vegetables and fruit brought a sophistication to the pot luck table, and illustrated the skills and artistry of a special kind of homemaker. It’s not as easy as it seems: if you’ve watched Julie and Julia, or tried making one yourself, you can appreciate the talent required to unmold an aspic.
Most of us have fond memories of sweet aspics. The pieces of pineapple, maraschino cherries and whatnot hanging inside a bright green, lime-flavored Jell-O mold on Easter, or a raspberry flavored mold during the holidays. Fewer of us, I think, remember savory molds, called aspics. Well, here’s a recipe to conjure that long forgotten memory, despite your best attemps to forget.
This recipe comes from the 11th edition of the Knudsen Recipe Book (1959), a color pamphlet produced by California dairy producer Knudsen. Like many companies, Knudsen published books and pamphlets with ideas for using their products, so every recipe in this book uses milk, sour cream, cottage cheese, buttermilk, or any other product sold by Knudsen Creamery. The booklet, and this recipe in particular, are almost singularly the catalyst for my fascination with vintage cookbooks.
Knudsen Creamery was founded in 1919 in Los Angeles by Tom Knudsen and his brother, Carl. The company expanded and opened plants in the central California towns of Visalia and Tulare (now the center of dairy production in California). By the mid 1970’s, Knudsen products were available throughout the western united states. But bankruptcy in the 1980’s led to the company being sold to a string of different owners, finally landing in the hands of Kraft Foods, who now owns the Knudsen trademark. Although Knudsen products are now limited to just sour cream and cottage cheese, you can find new (but not nearly as exotic) recipes at the official Knudsen website.
So the next time you’re invited to a potluck, or just want to impress your guests at a dinner party, try this aspic on for size and revive a little California dairy history.
CORNED BEEF SALAD LOAF
1 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
2 cups beef bouillon
1 hard-cooked egg, sliced
1 1/2 cups cooked or canned corned beef, minced
1/4 cup celery, finely minced
1 tablespoon horseradish
1 cup Knudsen Cottage Cheese
Soften gelatin in 1/4 cup of the bouillon. Bring remaining bouillon to a boil; stir in the softened gelatin until dissolved. Pour a thin layer in an 8″ x 4″ x 3″ loaf pan and arrange egg slices, pimiento and parsley on it. Chill until partially set. Chill remaining gelatin until slightly thickened. Mix corned beef, celery, horseradish and cottage cheese and toss lightly. Fold carefully into the slightly thickened gelatin and spread over decorated layer. Chill until firm and unmold on salad greens. Serves 6.