Old-School Frozen Fruit Salad Is Too Good To Leave In The Past

Plenty of foods have fallen out of popular rotation, and most for the better. Ambrosia salad, a mélange of tropical fruit with a sour cream base and marshmallows that resembles shaving cream and cotton balls, is one of them. If you stan it, we salute you, but we think we speak for the general public when we say it belongs in the past.

Frozen fruit salad, on the other hand — which would not look out of place at a Southern picnic in the 1980s — is a dish that deserves a tenured spot in the summer dessert lineup. While it might resemble Ambrosia salad with its binding agent of sour cream, cool whip, and sugar, it transforms into a thing of beauty in the freezer.  

Once it's thawed, you're left with a sliceable treat that begs for an extra dollop of whipped cream on top. The sweet and tangy dessert gets bonus points for its pretty cross-section of chopped fruit. The best part? It's super customizable. 

Go the retro route with canned fruit cocktail

Like most fruit-based desserts approved by grandmas, no two frozen fruit salads are alike. If you prefer to follow tradition, though, turn to your pantry. A canned fruit cocktail — which might include pineapple, peaches, pears, and grapes — is a no-prep choice that can be made even more retro with maraschino cherries, nuts, and marshmallows. For a seasonal version, chop up your favorite fruits and berries du jour into bite-size pieces.

The other component of frozen fruit salad is its binding mixture, which varies from recipe to recipe just as much as the fruity filling. Lynette Rice's version uses Cool Whip, softened cream cheese, and white sugar, while some recipes add mayonnaise to the mix for a little extra zing. Of course, you could create a gourmet version by making your own whipped cream.

Once the filling is whipped into stiff peaks, all that's left to do is mix it with your drained filling, spread it into your chosen pan, and freeze it. Eat it right away before it melts back into an Ambrosia salad.

A relic of the 1920s

While the modern freezer didn't enter the average American household until the 1940s, certain well-off party hosts had them as early as the 1920s. As you might imagine, such a novel invention was cause for showing off. That's when frozen everything, including the humble fruit salad, started showing up on dinner-party spreads.

The 1929 cookbook "Salads and Sandwiches," published by the Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences, features a recipe that differs slightly from its later counterparts (namely: it calls for eggs and a double broiler to make the creamy binder). However, pineapple chunks and maraschino cherries still play starring roles. Considering the cookbook's release coincides with the start of the Great Depression, canned fruit may have been a frugal choice for cash-strapped home cooks. In an era of financial strife, the frozen fruit salad played as a deceptively decadent treat and can still be enjoyed today.