Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

If the mere thought of making JELL-O takes you back to your school cafeteria's orange square with shredded carrots or Aunt Betty's lime JELL-O surprise served every Thanksgiving, think again. JELL-O is a sweet, light dessert that won't make the kitchen hot in the summer. It's versatile – add any fruit to it (or vegetables if you must), layer it or spike it with alcohol, as lovers of JELL-O shots know so well. Wipe the slate clean and give it another chance because JELL-O has been rescued from Aunt Betty.

JELL-O Time, Start to Finish

The amount of time JELL-O takes to make depends on what you're making with it. Preparing a small box of JELL-O (3 ounces) takes perhaps 10 minutes, counting the time it takes to boil water, but most of the time spent in making JELL-O is the time it has to sit in the refrigerator to gel, which is about four hours. If you're using a deep mold that's taller than it is wide, then it may take longer, while a thin, very wide pan would likely take less time.

Making JELL-O Different Ways

Traditional recipe: Dissolve a small box (3 ounces) of JELL-O in 2 cups of boiling water. Stir for two minutes and make sure the powder is totally dissolved. Add 2 cups of cold water and stir until mixed. Pour it into a mold or pan and refrigerate for four hours or until set.

Speed set: To reduce the setting time, dissolve a small box of JELL-O in just 1 1/2 cups of boiling water. In a large measuring cup, add 1 cup of cold water and add enough ice to total 2 1/2 cups. Add it to the hot water mixture and stir until the mixture is slightly thickened and most of the ice cubes have melted. Remove the extra ice and refrigerate for 30 to 90 minutes or until set.

Adding fruit: Make the traditional recipe using 2 cups each of boiling and cold water. Refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours, during which time the mixture should have thickened. Add up to 3 cups of chopped, well-drained fruit and refrigerate for four hours or until firm.

Making JELL-O Jigglers

JELL-O jigglers are fun shapes of JELL-O that you can eat in your hand. They're firmer because they have less water, but they jiggle too. To make JELL-O jigglers:

  • Spray a 13-by-9-inch pan lightly with cooking spray and wipe off the excess.

  • Empty two small boxes (3 ounces each) of JELL-O

    in a bowl.

    Add 2 cups of boiling water. DO NOT add any cold water. Stir until dissolved.

    Pour carefully into a pan, being sure to pop any bubbles. Refrigerate for three to four hours until set but jiggly.

    * When you are ready to cut it into shapes, dip the pan in warm water for 10 to 15 seconds. (NO MORE!) Use cookie cutters or a sharp knife to cut it into the desired shapes.

Adding Alcohol for JELL-O Shots

JELL-O became popular again once someone got the idea to make it into an adult treat by adding alcohol. To make JELL-O shots:

  • In a large bowl, dissolve one package (3 ounces) of JELL-O

    in 1 cup of boiling water and stir until dissolved.

    Add 1/2 cup of cold water.

    Add 1/2 cup of vodka.

    Fill 2-ounce paper cups half full with the mixture.

    Refrigerate until firm, about three hours or overnight.

Fun variation: Experiment with flavored vodka that complements the flavor of the JELL-O.

Layering JELL-O for Special Occasions

Make colored layers for different occasions: red for Valentine's Day, red and green for Christmas and red and blue with whipped cream for patriotic holidays. To make layered JELL-O:

  • Make one color of JELL-O

    following the traditional directions.

    Pour it into a pan and chill until set.

    Make the next color and pour it on top of the set layer. Chill it again until that layer is set.

    * Repeat using all the colors you want.

About the Author

Barbara Bean-Mellinger

Barbara Bean-Mellinger is a freelance writer who lives in the Washington, D.C. area and writes about food for eHow.com and leaf.tv. She started baking on her own at age nine, creating appetizers at 10, and making family meals by 14. Barbara holds a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh, where she often cooked elaborate meals and desserts for friends.