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?

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sam

    Thank you! I had no idea. Great that you are enjoying the site.

    Hello Heedolsi

    Thank you. It will have to be canned pineapple next time – in fact I did can some this autumn but didn’t think to use it.

    Hi Julie

    Thanks for your contribution. I had no idea that fresh pineapple can’t be used!

    Hi Aisling

    Thank you. I suppose the enzyme must be killed when the pineapple is cooked.

    Hello Joy

    Ah ha so bromelase is the culprit! Thank you and also I’m so pleased that you are enjoying the site.

    Hi Joanna

    Thanks. Don’t worry I’m determined to make one before the New Year.

    Hello Homojoe

    Jelly is very good for nails and hair. My mum eats a cube a day for this. The thought of calves head is slightly off putting but jelly can be made from any animal bones. The jelly made from pigs’ trotters is particularly good. Can you get vegan gelatine or is that like asking for meatless beef?

    Hi Heather

    How come everyone else in the world knows this apart from D, me and the Min Pins?

    The gluten free flour would be better in the piccalilli I reckon.

    Hi Oonagh Reffell

    I didn’t know about kiwi fruit either. In fact I’m going to look up which fruit contain bromalese before embarking on another experiment!

    Hi Jo

    Sorry to hear that you are ill. Get well soon. Perhaps your family might bring you back some trifle.

    Hi Shelley

    Loved your comment!

    Hi Gail

    Well I didn’t know! Danny’s childhood trifles had hundreds and thousands on them too.

    Hi Jane QTF

    I didn’t know that you can have trifle without jelly. A whole new adventure for me. Thank you.

    Great that you are enjoying the site – thanks for your positive feedback.

    Hi Pamela

    I love the way everyone has their own idea how a trifle should be. Danny’s mum backed a sponge for the base of the trifle!

    Hope the shirt of beef stew worked out well – it’s best left to chill for the flavours to develop and then reheated.

    Hi Claire

    That sounds a dish to die for. Any chance of a recipe?

    Hello Amalee (trifle goddess)

    I’m insanely jealous! Thanks for dropping by.

    Hi Belinda

    Now that’s interesting. I think that I’m going to try that as I love jelly and chopped jelly looks so pretty. Happy holidays to you!

  2. I always set my jelly in a dish of its own then cut it up & tip it in over the sponge… didnt realise I was doing it wrong… but this may have allowed you fresh pineapple in your trifle.

    Red & green jellies are a must in the Christmas sherry trifle.

    Better try again…

  3. amalee issa

    Enzymes baby, enzymes. I realise this sounds too much like Donald Sutherland in “Kelly’s Heros” but it is Christmas and it’s been on the telly…

    (trifle goddess)

  4. claire guest

    my mum makes wicked black cherry and chocolate trifle with a small drop of kirsch. yummy

  5. AS soon as you started down the pineapple route I knew what was coming next LOL. We used to rather like those Birds packets of trifle which contained all the components except the fruit. Hundreds and Thousands on the top. The only way to go. No evil nuts in my trifle. They are even worse than the toxic cherries and dried grapes (although you don’t generally find those in trifle). I’m just making your beef stew with skirt of beef for a family dinner tomorrow. We are having a trial run tonight with the extra ingredients which wouldn’t fit in the large casserole dish.

  6. Jane (YTF)

    Happy (for us…..) to say we had one of my mother’s sherry trifles over Christmas. I usually miss out on them as I live at the other end of the country – but she came to stay for Christmas and brought the ingredients with her, by special request. British sherry – “not worth wasting Spanish which we could drink” – and tinned mixed fruit with the cherries picked out to decorate the cream. However, definitely NO JELLY! Better luck next time – an occasional treat worth waiting for. Best wishes for the New Year and thanks for entertaining me for the last few months since I picked the quinces and found your site while looking for recipes.

  7. Pineapple shmineapple, everyone knows you only put tinned mixed fruit in a trife, you know the one with the toxic cherry. And what’s with the flaked almonds? Hundreds and thousands are what’s called for here folks. Then you have a truly authentic 70’s trifle. A fave in our house as well.

  8. just about to log in and say the PINEAPPLE was your problem but I think someone may already have said that!!! 🙂

  9. Danny Carey

    Well that is amazing. We held a post mortem on the trifle last night and the only possible cause, we deduced, must be something in the pineapple although that seemed outlandish to us at the time. Thank you all for confirming that. Apologies if there is some obvious repetition in the earlier comments – we woke to find 8 comments from new contributors waiting to be moderated.
    Many thanks to you all.

  10. I read that all the way through going no…no no…no nononono!

    My gran makes the world’s best trifle, it is a staple at every big family event. I was supposed to be going over there for tea today (and hopefully trifle) but I have been sick so I can’t go in case I infect them, maybe I should make one myself.

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