Imagine a virgin Bloody Mary in gelatin form. That’s tomato aspic in a nutshell: retro, refreshing, surprisingly good. Perhaps the most enduring of once-popular savory jelled salads, it makes a charming first course; I eat leftovers for a snack with Saltines or melba toast. This particular recipe—there must be a thousand, all very similar—comes from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (Meredith Press), circa 1960.
4 cups tomato juice 1/3 cup roughly chopped onion 1/3 cup roughly chopped celery, with leaves 2 tablespoons brown sugar 1 teaspoon salt 2 small bay leaves 4 whole cloves 2 tablespoons (2 envelopes) unflavored gelatin 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Place the 2 cups tomato juice in a large bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin granules. Set aside to let the gelatin swell (“bloom”).
2. Meanwhile, place the remaining 2 cups of tomato juice in a small saucepan with the onion, celery, brown sugar, salt, bay leaves, and cloves. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for five minutes. Strain the mixture into the bloomed gelatin, discarding the solids.
3. Stir the mixture until the gelatin is dissolved. Pour into a 5-cup mold and chill, preferably overnight, until set. Serve with a dab of mayonnaise, if you like.
Makes about 8 servings.