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 Tamar

    Shame 🙂

    Hello Brian

    That’s interesting, thank you. Happy New Year to you too.

    Hello Lesley

    Great that you are enjoying the site. Happy New Year 🙂

  2. I too discovered this site whilst looking for a recipe for my hoard of Quince fruit….
    I absolutely adore The Cottage Smallholder!
    Thank you for keeping us both inspired and entertained.
    Have a lovely New Year everyone!


  3. The effect of pineapple on gelatin, or any protein, was shown, a few years ago, on the childrens Christmass lectures from the Royal Institution. They made the link to cooking a slce of gammon with a slice of pinapple on top to using pineapple to tenderise meat.

    Love your blog Happy and Healthy New Year

  4. Here I finally get a chance to be all know-it-all and tell you about the enzyme in the pineapple, but 22 other know-it-alls beat me to the punch!

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Veronica

    I think that I prefer homemade custard in trifle too. But this is a retro trifle. Once I’ve cracked it I want to move onto trying all sorts of different trifles with and without jelly.

  6. So funny! I imagine nearly everyone reading this was silently screaming “It’s the pineapple! The pineapple!”

    Yes, there are definitely jelly and no-jelly schools of trifle-making. I’m no-jelly, but if you want a true retro trifle I agree it has to be jelly and trifle sponges. I’m also the sole member of the “no Bird’s custard” club, but that’s probably essential to a retro trifle too 🙂

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