Like many newlyweds, Jay and I took turns spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with our respective families. His family was mainly from Ohio and mine was from Texas, so the traditional dishes served were a bit different, although a roasted turkey was the centerpiece of both meals. In time he and I would decide which dishes we liked best from the two families.
He loved the southern cornbread dressing my family served, and I preferred the turkey gravy his family made (as opposed to my family’s giblet gravy). Neither one of us liked English pea salad, and we also were not a fan of traditional holiday fruit salads.
Generally, two types of fruit salad were served. One variety featured fruits and fruit cocktail mixed with whipped cream, and the other was fresh fruits mixed with mayonnaise. Both had pecans. At the first Thanksgiving we hosted, we opted not to serve a fruit salad.
But we did realize something was missing. How did we come up with Ambrosia?
Banana bread is also a Shiffler family holiday recipe. Learn the story behind our favorite recipe here: Aunt Lily’s Banana Bread Recipe
During the early years of our marriage, I was a huge fan (and still am) of Southern Living Magazine. For more than 40 years, many of my homemaking, decorating and cooking cues came from its pages. Sometime in the mid-1980s, Southern Living featured an article about holiday fruit salads. Ambrosia was one of the recipes.
Straight away we added Ambrosia as a side dish to our holiday meals. It was a perfect complement to our dinner menu of turkey, cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy and rolls.
Somewhere along the way, I read that Ambrosia was called “fruits of the Gods,” because oranges and pineapple were such delicacies. My first recollection of eating Ambrosia was at Luby’s Cafeteria in Bergfeld Center in Tyler, Texas. Luby’s served Ambrosia in a chilled mini parfait glass. Jay did not recall ever eating Ambrosia. The Ambrosia at Luby’s included fresh grapefruit, so I added it to the Southern Living recipe.
And finally, Ambrosia is meant to be served in a beautiful crystal dish. For years I always served it in a cut glass footed bowl that we received as a wedding gift. But one year at Thanksgiving, that bowl cracked right in half. For Christmas a few weeks later, Jay gave me a beautiful Mikasa crystal bowl that matched a vase he had previously given to me. I always think of it as the Ambrosia Bowl.
- 2 or 3 oranges, peeled and chopped It is a challenge, but be sure to remove the pith and peel, and only use the orange meat, known as the carpel, within the sections.
- 2 ruby red grapefruits As with the orange, only use the grapefruit meat within the sections.
- 1 fresh pineapple cut into chunks or 2 regular cans of pineapple chunks in its own juice (drained)
- ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for a few hours before serving. You may serve it with a dollop of whipped cream or Cool Whip, although we never really thought of it as a dessert.
- For a quicker version, you can use cans or jars of mandarin oranges and grapefruit, both drained.