Tomato Aspic

Salads are of three types: simple, composed, and molded. Carême (1784- 1833), the great French chef famous for his architectural creations, was fond of jellied dishes. Savory aspics have long been held in esteem by the French and in the Lowcountry, where they are as varied as souse and this congealed tomato salad. Two Hundred Years of Charleston Cooking (1930) includes four recipes. Serve this salad in the spring and early summer when the weather is hot but tomatoes have not yet appeared on the vine. It is a cool harbinger of summer fruits to come.

Tomato aspic is often served in the Lowcountry as the first course at a formal luncheon. Other vegetables such as asparagus or seafood such as crabmeat or shrimp may be added to the dish if desired. It is served on crisp salad greens with a rich homemade mayonnaise.

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  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons (2 envelopes) unflavored gelatin
  • 4 to 5 cups tomato juice or puree (see Note)
  • 2 celery ribs, very finely diced (½ cup)
  • ½ small onion, grated (1 tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar


Pour the boiling water over the gelatin in a mixing bowl and stir vigorously so that all of the gelatin dissolves. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into a -quart mold or twelve ½-cup individual ramekins rinsed in cold water. Refrigerate to set and chill. To unmold, dip in hot water for a few seconds, then invert.