July 24th: Pioneer Day. It’s a Utah state holiday commemorating the triumphant arrival of Brigham Young and his band of pioneers to the Salt Lake valley on July 24, 1847. After he declared “This is the right place,” floods of Mormon emigrants and immigrants followed him to Utah. Most Utah towns of any size (except for the Independent Republic of Park City, but that’s another topic altogether…) host parades and associated “family-friendly” festivals. The Salt Lake City parade is the biggest community event of the year. Last year, lawmakers extended the period during which residents shoot aerial fireworks so that citizens could blow shit up from the 4th to the 24th of July without interruption. Folks who celebrate Pioneer Day host parties that fall into two camps directly divided by modern religious affiliation, rather than pioneer ancestry: Pioneers vs. “Pie and Beers.” Makes me want a good, stiff drink. Or some Jell-O shots. That’s right, Pie & Beer Camp: We are making Freaking Moonshine Jell-O Shots. With PopRocks on top!
I made the ones photographed here for a July 4th party hosted by Lemon Drop and IPA (a.k.a. Hoss on Hops). They were a freaking HIT. Half I made without alcohol; those were topped with cherries (to make sure the kiddos, pregnant women, recovering alcoholics, and Mormons didn’t get the boozy ones by accident). Half were made using 80 proof white corn whiskey (commercially available “moonshine”) instead of the frat party favorite Everclear. I left those unadorned until just before serving, then I scattered about ¼ teaspoon of Pop Rocks (yes! The exploding in your mouth candy!) on each shot. The combination of the whiff of Moonshine with the sweet gumminess of the Jell-O was perfectly balanced by the acoustic and sensory bang of the Pop Rocks. And nobody died from combining Pop Rocks and alcohol, so take that, urban mythologists. As a basis for this recipe, and for help figuring out how to make the “white” layer, I turned to a Wiki-how tutorial on making Patriots football Jell-o shots. Of course, you can substitute any colors/flavors you want, and you can always use plain old vodka if you don’t have corn liquor on hand. This recipe makes about 35 shots, depending upon what kind of containers you use and how full you fill them.
Layered Moonshine Jell-O shots
1 – 3 oz. box blue Jell-O
2 packets plain gelatin
1 can (1 cup) sweetened condensed milk
1 – 3 oz. box red Jell-O 3 cups boiling water (divided use)
2 ½ cups clear relatively flavorless liquor (corn whiskey or vodka)
3-4 packages Cherry or Watermelon (red) Pop Rocks
To assemble your shots: Place 35 small plastic cups on a large rimmed sheet tray. Lightly spray all of the cups with flavorless cooking spray to reduce sticking.
For the blue layer: combine blue Jell-O with 1 cup boiling water; stir until completely dissolved. Let cool slightly (otherwise your liquor will evaporate from the heat- we don’t want that!!). Add the liquor, and pour equally into small cups. Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until set.
For the white layer: sprinkle gelatin packets over 1 ½ cups water just off the boil; whisk quickly to dissolve completely. Keep whisking and add the condensed milk and ½ cup liquor. After it’s all combined, pour gently over the blue layer 2/3 the way up the cup. Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until set.
For the red layer: combine red Jell-O with 1 cup boiling water; stir until completely dissolved. Let cool slightly. Add the liquor, and pour equally into small cups. Add fruit to top at this point, if desired. Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until set. For the PopRocks Firecracker finale! As you are serving the Jell-O shots, have guest sprinkle about ¼ tsp. Rop Rocks on their Jell-O shot.
And yes, all of this colonialist history and celebratory dogmatic revisionism makes me twitchy. I’m trying to be more laid back about it this year. Hence, the moonshine.