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An Easter dish with Southern roots

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Cherry Cola Salad

1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple in heavy syrup, drained, syrup reserved

1 10-ounce jar maraschino cherries, drained, chopped, syrup reserved

1 8-ounce package cherry gelatin

3 12-ounce cans chilled cola (Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Dr. Pepper, RC Cola)

½ cup chopped toasted pecans or walnutsSour cream or whipped cream for garnish

Bring pineapple and cherry syrup to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and whisk in the gelatin powder until fully dissolved.

Transfer to a large measuring container and add enough cola to equal a total of 4 cups of liquid. You many not use all of the cans of cola.

Stir in the pineapple, cherries, and nuts. Pour into a Bundt mold or smaller individual molds.

Chill in refrigerator 3 to 5 hours.

Cut slices to serve and top with sour cream or whipped cream, if desired.

Updated: April 28, 2013 6:09AM



Southern Easter celebrations are the stuff made for magazine pages. The South is lucky, though, for there is rarely a risk of a frosty Easter Sunday. There’s no waiting for spring in the South. It arrives right on time, and with it comes pretty pastel eggs shrouded in thick lengths of Kentucky Bluegrass, pillbox-capped ladies strolling out of church, and the first smells of tulip heads and daffodils peaking out from the soil and ripening in the warm Southern sun.

This is the first blush of spring for the South, so why not celebrate with absolute panache when Mother Nature has been so very gracious? Up here, we could only wish to be so lucky.

There seems to be a certain combination of formal flair and old-fashioned American heritage embedded in Southern culture —especially when it comes to holidays. It’s a contradiction of sorts: simple, somewhat passe traditions that might normally be considered common get new-spun revival when reconditioned in a little bit of the classic romance of the Deep South.

The menu for an Easter celebration flaunts this coalescence. Tea party-inspired Sunday brunches not only exhibit beautifully roasted honey hams and legs of lamb, but also the venerable salads and sides that are most often seen at church luncheons and potlucks. But what takes these dishes out of the realm of ordinary and into that of classy Southern society is all in the presentation.

Take, for instance, the cherry cola salad. This Depression-era congealed salad is prepared from the same template as those grocery store deli salads that feature shreds of carrots and cucumber and other unidentifiable hues of fluorescents suspended in a glossy blob of gelatin. The recipe is ancient, and there are generations of variations out there that stray very little from the original. But when molded into an intricately patterned Bundt pan, this fancified side dish is fit for a garden brunch.

It’s hard to trace this particular congealed salad back to its original roots, but it must have gained popularity when both Jell-O and Coca-Cola rose to stardom in the Southern states — more than a generation ago. Lucky for culinary lore, it stuck around and still steps in as a staple on Easter menus.

Cool and refreshing, maraschino cherries pop up in a gelatinous medley of pineapple, cherry gelatin and cola. The flavor from the cherries is bright and the cola, sweet. A crunch from toasted pecans makes this dish taste wholly Southern and completes the blend of kitsch with Southern sass.



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