Still, these kits are only six bucks! And they're perfect perfect perfect for making Jell-O shots for tailgating and, oh, whoops, no, never mind: The fine folks at Kraft are really very, very insistent that their kits are not meant to be used with alcohol.
Bah. The fine folks at Kraft are full of it.
We, however, are not full of it, or at least what we're full of is quite different from what the fine folks at Kraft are full of, and so we set about making Jell-O shots with every college football kit available as of this season, 20 in all. You know ... just to see what that was like.
Truth be told, I went into this with two thoughts in mind: First, this was a ridiculous thing to do and therefore very worth doing, and second, the molds were going to suck, and we'd all get a good laugh about how lame they are.
I was right on one point.
The mechanics of making 240 Jell-O shots are insane.
Now, you're not often likely to find yourself making 240 Jell-O shots in one go. If you're tailgating or having a group over to watch a big game, though, a large quantity may be called for, in which case the advice I'd offer, having made 240 of these things, is to leave yourself plenty of time to mix them in addition to the two or three hours they'll need to set up. The good news about these particular Jell-O shots is that, because the recipe for the molds differs from the standard Jell-O prep method, they set up pretty fast.
The classic recipe for Jell-O shots calls for five ounces of vodka to a three-ounce package of powdered Jell-O mix, combined with one cup of boiling water to dissolve the gelatin and half a cup of cold water to aid the setting process. However, the mold kits specifically call for the use of two-thirds of a cup of boiling water only. This presented a wrinkle. And I HATE wrinkles. After standing despondently in the Deadspin office bleating, "How am I going to do this? I can't boil the vodka! Can I? No, of course I can't. Why did I suggest this idea? Whyyyyyyyyyy?" I bucked up, grabbed the first kit in the box—Mizzou—brushed away my panic and maybe a tear or two, and set about figuring out how to make these things work.
(Look, until you've spent $150 of your boss's money and been confronted with the reality of testing out 20 separate Jell-O mold kits, you really shouldn't go judging me for finding myself on the cusp of a nervous breakdown over all of this. These things can do a number on a person.)
The first order of business was to make a control batch without vodka, exactly following the kit instructions, which were to mix a three-ounce package of Jell-O with two-thirds of a cup of boiling water for two minutes, then to pour that mixture into a mold that's been coated with cooking spray. The results were … okay. More or less what I expected, actually, in that the oval-shaped-mascot Jigglers turned out pretty well, while the rectangular Mizzou logo was more or less a wreck. In fairness, I will say that the letters stood out better than I expected they would, but the unmolding process was a mess, and as one of my esteemed colleagues put it when I shared my photo of the control batch, "Some of those look pretty dong-y. Yeah, I definitely see a dong in there."
Do you see the dong?
In part, the unmolding process suffered from a can of sub-par cooking spray, the dregs of which I used for that first batch. Odd as it may sound, that turned out to be a good thing to have happen, because it underscored the importance of the cooking spray to this process. So: Don't skimp on the cooking spray.
Next up was a batch of Jigglers with vodka, starting with a one-third cup of boiling water to a one-third cup of vodka to one three-ounce packet of Jell-O mix. This actually worked great, and is what I would suggest you roll with.
Now, a one-third cup of vodka may not sound like a whole lot, but bear in mind that a shot is generally around an ounce to an ounce and a half of alcohol, so five or six of them will pack as much punch as, like, a lemon drop. And these things are tiny. For further proof that a one-third cup is more than enough vodka to produce a satisfying Jell-O shot, people who volunteered to try them out marveled at how "strong" the shots from the test batch tasted.
With a workable recipe in hand, I set about making shots using each of the remaining 19 kits. This is where things started to go wrong.
It took five hours. Five hours of measuring and stirring and pouring and making small talk in the Gawker HQ kitchen with a bunch of people who were in all likelihood wondering who the loon in the Batman apron making Jell-O was and why she was allowed in the office. The small talk was the most grueling part. (I'm an introvert.) The second most grueling part was the concerned looks on the faces of the Deadspin staff who were sent in from time to time to check that I was okay. The answer was always the same: "No, I'm really not okay."
By the time I was done making the 19th batch of shots, the first half-dozen were set up and ready to be unmolded. Because I used a liberal amount of cooking spray, the unmolding went mostly fine—we rushed things at the end and wound up with a few piles of slime, while the last few trays just weren't allowed to fully set up. Ah, well. But the ones that were fully set were far less fragile than they looked: Once you get them out, you should feel free to more or less manhandle them, which you'll need to do to get them to sit right-side up on whatever serving piece you'll use to display the shots.
As previously mentioned, even though these don't have a huge amount of alcohol in them, they do hit pretty hard. We noted that some flavors, like lemon and orange, showcased the vodka better than others, like strawberry and grape.
The kits come with two trays and four packets of Jell-O in school colors; some schools came with two flavors to represent their dual colors, which was a nice touch. I accidentally mixed some grape into a lemon LSU, and actually it came out really cool-looking. For a brief second I considered executing further experiments, and then I remembered that after making 228 Jell-O shots on a Friday afternoon, I woke up on Saturday morning wondering why my arms were sore. So I'm leaving any and all experiments up to you people.
Some of the kits also offer "recipes" to create colors, like black, that don't exist in the Jell-O universe (three packages grape to one package lemon, FYI). You could, of course, substitute whatever color or flavor of Jell-O you prefer; the default red flavor provided in the kits was strawberry, but cherry or raspberry would have also been quite nice.
Fine, I'll say it: The mold kits produce a damn fine looking Jell-O shot. In fact, here's a slideshow of our handiwork!
Some of the shots look a little runny, and that's entirely our fault — because dusk was upon us, we had to rush to photograph them while we still had light. Sorry, Tennessee and Oregon! You legit got robbed. Generally speaking, the simpler the molds, the better the appearance: Michigan's turned out great, what with that big blocky M (the cool yellow-and-blue duo only added to the effect), while Mizzou turned out, well, a bit dong-y. Mostly though, there really wasn't a dud in the bunch.
The recipe for Jell-O shots made in a mold differs from that for a standard Jell-O shot. These are the instructions:
One three-ounce package Jell-O
One-third cup boiling water
One-third cup vodka
- In a bowl, stir the powdered Jell-O in with the boiling water for one minute.
- After one minute of stirring, pour in the vodka and continue stirring for another two minutes. Some of the mixture will cling to the side of the bowl, and that is okay.
- Pour the mixture into molds that have been coated in cooking spray.
- Refrigerate for two or three hours until set.
- Unmold by running a butter knife around the edges of the shots to loosen; if the shots don't slide right out, gently remove them with your fingers.
The purpose of this exercise, other than simply to peddle in ridiculata, was to see how well the molds worked out when used to make Jell-O shots, and thus to help you decide if they were worth your time and money. That's mostly for you to figure out based on the photos of your school's shots, but after having used all 20 kits, I was pretty pleasantly surprised at how cool-looking they turned out.
With that said, I never want to see another Jell-O shot again in my life.
Lead image by Sam Woolley.