When I was a kid I always loved eating dinner at my grandparent's house. My Grandma Betty, a spit-fire with a heart of gold, always made the best comfort food. Pork loin, fried chicken, lasagna, you name it. While the main entrees changed, one thing that was always present on the dinner table was her famous ambrosia salad. Known to me as "marshmallow salad," I couldn't believe my eyes the first time it was placed in front of me. "What do you mean there are marshmallows in this salad? Am I dreaming?" Today is the second anniversary of her death, and to honor her, I thought to eat and learn about ambrosia salad side dish was more than fitting.
The History of Ambrosia Salad
Categorized as a jello salad, the ambrosia salad is named after the food of Greek Gods, which is said to give longevity or immortality to those who eat it. Created in the South, the first-ever recipe of the fruit salad was recorded in an 1867 cookbook titled, Dixie Cookery: or How I Managed My Table for Twelve Years written by Maria Massey Barringer of Concord, North Carolina. While the recipe is basic (it calls for coconut, sugar, and pulped oranges) it's easy to see where today's recipe came from. By the 1900s, the recipe had gained pineapple and whipped cream and in the 1970s people were adding anything from jello to mayonnaise and sour cream to their salads to bring over to the neighborhood potluck. At this time canned fruit cocktails reigned supreme at every party you attended. Remember Watergate Salad?
Today's recipe follows the classic preparation my grandmother used with canned mandarin oranges, Cool Whip, maraschino cherries, pineapple tidbits, pecans, and mini marshmallows. My grandmother always used to like using the rainbow miniature marshmallows.
Begin by combining the Cool Whip and sour cream in a large bowl and mix until combined. Fold in marshmallows, shredded coconut, pineapple chunks (or tidbits depending on preference), maraschino cherries, and pecans. Gently fold in the mandarin oranges last to prevent them from breaking.
Cover and refrigerate the Ambrosia fruit salad for at least two hours before serving.
This Food of the Gods is also great with fresh fruit and whipped cream. Try making it for Easter.