The Cottage Smallholder

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Don’t trifle with me


Photo: Fresh pineapple

Photo: Fresh pineapple

I’ve had a longing for the past few weeks for a 1960’s sherry trifle. One made with supermarket dry trifle sponges soaked in sherry. Then partnered with fruit and packet jelly and topped with Bird’s custard, whipped cream and flaked almonds. Intuition warbled that fresh pineapple would be good so I bought one. At the jelly section of the supermarket, Intuition reminded me that we have raspberries in the freezer and gelatine in the larder. I ignored Intuition and reached for a pack of strawberry jelly cubes. Intuition also bucked and kicked when I tossed a light pack of trifle sponges in my trolley and I’m certain it didn’t approve of the Bird’s custard powder pack.

Last night I started my trifle so that it would be ready for the grand Boxing Day lunch. This is traditionally lunch on trays on our laps and racing on the telly. We always eat roast ham with a parsley sauce and very rarely any dessert. This year we would savour a retro trifle and have trifle pickings for the next few days.

“No wonder people buy these pre prepared ingredients,” I chortled to Danny as I soaked the sponge rectangles in sherry. “This is so easy. Add hot water to dissolve the jelly and then cold and chill.”

I chopped up the pineapple into chunks put them on top of the sponge oblongs poured on the jelly mixture and weighed the whole lot down with a plate. As the temperature in the kitchen was pretty frosty, I left the bowl to set on the table overnight.

This morning I got up early to make the custard. Shifting the bowl to read the custard recipe on the ‘Easy to open’ pack, the strawberry jelly slopped in the bowl. Perhaps it needed to be refrigerated to set?

I put the bowl in the fridge and decided to delay making the custard. After three hours it was still just a cheap strawberry drink with fresh pineapple and the sponge oblongs were beginning to break up. So I prepared three sheets of gelatine and stirred these carefully into the mix and popped it back in the fridge.

I also made the custard. Halving the suggested amount of sugar – don’t want it too sweet. Danny was still chirpy at this stage,
“We can make our own trifle and spoon custard and cream on the jelly.”

We were all too full to tackle the trifle after pigging out on the ham which was lucky as a covert trip to the fridge revealed that the jelly still hadn’t set.

After my mum left I repaired to bed for an elongated snooze. When I woke four hours later D had sampled the strawberry and pineapple soup.
“This is the first time that you have scored zero on the cooking front! Even the custard was runny and did you forget the sugar? – the whole thing was inedible. In the end the dogs finished it off.”

Apart from thinking that a retro trifle would be delicious where did I go wrong?

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  1. Oonagh Reffell

    He he he sorry to laugh but I have had the same problem and it was soooo traumatic at the time – it was definitely the pineapple.

    Pineapple and Jelly DO NOT MIX!!! Such a crying shame as pineapple jelly would be so lovely. I have even had failures with tinned pineapple.

    I’d not heard about kiwi fruit though – thanks Heather.

  2. Yes Joanna is right that fresh pineapplie is the problem, been there and done that still inclined to forget from time to time though.

  3. teehee, sorry. but i had to laugh. i knew as soon as you chopped up that pineapple you were going to have trouble. tinned would have been ok. dont use fresh kiwifruit in a jelly either.
    btw i used cornfour for a wee bit of gluten-free piccalilly and its quite nice but not quite the same, so am using gluten-free flour next time.

  4. I have had a few jelly disasters too, with different fruits. I had no idea it could be the pineapple though. I’m determined to try again now, so my vegan husband stops gloating every time my jelly fails (gelatin = baby calf heads in his book). He seems quite happy to eat my successul preserves though….

  5. The pineapple is the problem. It has an enzyme in it and I think that is what kept the whole thing from setting, I sympathise as I have done the same thing before.

    You had me all excited, I would love a trifle but Ian isn’t that keen and I need an excuse to make one.

  6. I think the problem was the pineapple. I gather pineapple contains an enzyme (bromelase) that prevents jelly from jelling and keeps it runny. To inactivate the enzyme, boil the pineapple in water or its own juice for a few minutes.
    Tinned pineapple has gone through the boiling process and, therefore, will be OK in jelly.

    Hi. I’ve been reading your blog with great admiration for quite a while and have now registered. Many thanks for all the amazing recipes.

  7. Fresh pineapple contains an enzyme which does something to the gelatin. This means that jelly never sets if it has fresh pineapple in it.

  8. I hate to tell you this, but the fresh pineapple was your culprit. Pineapple naturally contains a substance that inhibits jelling. It was a wonderful idea though, and would have been delicious if it would have worked. I really enjoy your blog. Better luck next time-

  9. I’m not familiar with the jelly cubes, but if they’re the equivalent of Jell-o in the US, then the fresh pineapple might have been part of the problem. Jell-o won’t set with fresh pineapple in it. Canned works, but not fresh – I have no idea why!

  10. Oh, you poor thing, that’s tragic!
    The problem was the FRESH pineapple it contains an enzyme that will break down your gelatin and possibly custard so that they never set up. If you had used cooked or canned pineapple you would have been fine. Pineapple papaya and a few other fruits do this. The Jello at my grocery store warns about this in small print on the back sometimes.
    Good luck next time. By the way I have enjoyed following your blog for a while!

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