James Beard includes what may be the original recipe for Perfection Salad in American Cookery, along with the comment that “This historic salad, which has become a standard in American cuisine, won third prize in a contest sponsored by Charles Knox in 1905.  Fannie Farmer was one of the judges.  The winner, Mrs. John E. Cooke of New Castle, Pennsylvania, was rewarded with a one hundred dollar sewing machine and enduring gastronomic fame.”  The recipe contains only one envelope of gelatin, and it tends to slouch when unmolded.

Jean Anderson offers Knox’s later, more modern version, which calls for two gelatin envelopes, in The American Century Cookbook.  Its posture is perfect, and I’ve given it here.

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin

1 cup cold water

1-1/2 cups boiling water

½ cup sugar

½ cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 cups finely shredded cabbage

1-1/2 cups diced celery

¼ cup diced green bell pepper

¼ cup chopped pimientos

salad greens (optional)


1.   Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a large, heatproof bowl; let stand 1 minute.  Add boiling water and stir until gelatin dissolves completely, about 5 minutes.

2.   Stir in sugar, vinegar, lemon juice and salt.

3.   Chill, stirring occasionally, until mixture is the consistency of unbeaten egg whites, 45 to 50 minutes.

4.   Fold in cabbage, celery, green pepper and pimientos.

5.   Fold into a 6 cup mold or bowl and chill 3 hours or until firm.

6.   To serve, unmold on serving platter and garnish, if desired, with salad greens.

from Jean Anderson, The American Century Cookbook

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