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Intersections: Peru’s Purple Corn Meets US Jello at Thanksgiving

Purple Corn Drink in Gelatin

Purple Corn Drink in Gelatin

Jello. There is nothing more Utahan than jello, even though it is also much loved in Peru. Food writer Carolyn Wyman quoted Mary Jane Kinkade, a spokesperson of Jell-O brand gelatin (made by Kraft Foods) as saying:

“Salt Lake City is America’s Jello-eating capital. Every man, woman and child in Salt Lake City buys two boxes of the stuff annually, or twice the national average. Utah residents also eat twice as much lime Jell-O as anyone else on the planet.”

I do not add to the jello eating phenomenon that is Utah. Someone else has to eat twice as much to make up for my deficit, because I do not believe in it. The over sugared mass of jiggly goo, glowing like a neon light of blue, green, orange or so many other unnatural colors derives its jiggle from, according to Wikipedia, “a translucent substance extracted from the collagen inside animals’ connective tissue, made from bones and pig skin.”

Thanksgiving always proves a battle ground where I must take my firm anti-jello stand.
The opening shot of the battle began when my daughter-in-law announced that we would be having a Thanksgiving dinner at her house. A self-proclaimed expert on turkey preparation has offered to cook the favored fowl of the festivity. She slyly suggested that I could make side dishes. “Sure! I will make some awesome potatoes…” (Yes, that was a blatant reference to my last article, about potatoes.

They are truly wonderful.) She interrupted, “And, jello. We like jello!” Straight through to the heart of the matter. Sigh. I had lost without even getting in a good argument. There are other ways to make ‘jello’ with gelatins and fruit juices, I thought. So I began to peruse recipes for a jello that we could all be thankful for.

I found it on a site called “Pisco Trail”. Chicha Morada en Gelatina. (Purple Corn Drink in Gelatin) Corn, such a symbol of Thanksgiving Day in the United States, and with the beautiful color and the wonderful flavors of clove, pineapple, and cinnamon. This might be wibbly wobbly stuff on which we could agree.


• 2 cups chicha morada (see below)
• 8 tablespoons sugar
• 2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin powder
• 2 oz. fresh lime juice
• 4 tablespoons finely diced apple
• cinnamon powder for garnish


In addition to the ingredients above, you’ll need a sauce pan for simmering, and an ice cube tray for the jello shots

1. Mix in a saucepan the purple corn elixir, sugar, and gelatin.
2. Bring to a simmer and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
3. Add the lime juice, stir to mix well, and remove from heat.
4. Pour into an ice cube tray, and add pieces of diced apple.
5. Refrigerate overnight.
6. Use a thin knife to carefully remove jello shots.
7. Dust with some powdered cinnamon before serving.

Purple Corn
Purple Corn to Prepare Elixer

There are markets in the United States where they sell a conglomeration of foreign goods – from yakisoba noodles to bundles of cinnamon. In one of these local markets I found a package with several cobs of purple corn. (pic)

The chicha morada instructions called for several cobs of purple corn, a table spoon of orange peel, ¼ c. lime juice, cinnamon sticks and cloves and the rind of a pineapple. Chopped apples, if desired. Put the corn, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and pineapple rind into a gallon of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer for 40 minutes. Strain and let cool. Add lime juice and apple, if desired.
As these were boiling on the stove, I opened the other packet that I had found: (pic)

The packet of dehydrated corn solids and sugars mixed quickly with two cups of water, but it also became very frothy. I added ice and waited for a few minutes. (pic)

Chicha Morada en Gelatina
Chicha Morada Jello and Whipped Cream

When the mixture of fruits and corn was done, I compared the two. The color was very similar, the flavor was not. Even after adding two cups of sugar to the gallon of water, corn and fruit, the pre-made dehydrated mixture was much sweeter and had a distinctly artificial taste. David said the packet Chicha always reminds him of Kool-Aid and I will agree. I had added a little lime peel along with the juice, there was a hint of a bitter back note to the chicha, but it was still preferable to my taste. Wonderful notes of pineapple, cloves and cinnamons highlighted the chicha. After taking off a gallon to drink, there was still more than enough to make the Chicha Morada Gelatina.

The tray where I balanced the shot glasses of Jell-O was too big for the fridge, but the nights are cold now in Utah, so I took advantage of that fact put it in the garage to set up. (pic)

With some trepidation I checked the results this morning. The jello had set beautifully, it was a wonderful color. I called my friend Grant to perform a taste test. He approved. He also suggested that the addition of rum or vodka (and even better Pisco) would turn the jello into jello shots. Which would also be an interesting adventure for anyone who would like to take that trail.

So, I will make a ‘jelly’ (as it is called in the UK and Australia) and serve it for Thanksgiving. I will be thankful for all the mothers who have fed us on the fruits of the fields, linking hands and hearts with the traditional Peruvian Earth Mother who feeds us.

Purple Corn Drink
Purple Corn Drink Illuminated from Behind

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