Granny always called it “Fruit Salad” but some (like my late husband) call it “Ambrosia” but it is just as delicious no matter what it is called!
When I was about 11 or 12 years old, Granny Betty started using Cool Whip instead of whipping her own cream and eventually she also started using a new “miracle” product called Fruit Fresh (MSG) instead of lemon juice to keep the fruit looking prettier even longer.
She stopped using those, however, when my late husband entered the picture because he was diabetic and also severely allergic to MSG.
When he wasn’t around she still liked to use her Cool Whip.
However, when her own issues with elevated blood pressure and headaches suddenly disappeared, she decided the pretty fruit wasn’t worth risking her health either and went back to using lemon juice soaks instead of shaking on the Fruit Fresh (MSG).
Honestly, her fruit salad was so yummy it never lasted long enough to even need the MSG anyway!
This is her original recipe using real whipped cream and lemon juice.
If desired, you can use a tub of Cool Whip or Reddi Whip instead, however, you should always be aware and know exactly what you are actually eating — so at least it is an informed decision.
The following link provides a list of ingredients and a comparison between Cool Whip, Reddi Whip, and fresh homemade whipped cream:
With Granny’s recipe you can adjust the quantities as desired and make a smaller or larger amount (although I can’t imagine ever needing a larger amount).
The following will fill about two or three very large serving bowls or one massively large mixing bowl — intended for large holiday and family gatherings.
She would make and refrigerate it in a giant metal bowl — that took up an entire shelf all by itself in the refrigerator — then scoop some out into a serving bowl as needed for the table.
Here is a large mixing bowl of this fruit salad that my Dad made with plenty of freshly whipped heavy cream and lots of extra maraschino cherries:
Slice 3 or 4 bananas and soak the slices covered in lemon juice concentrate. Toss to be sure juice coats both sides.
Dice 1 or 2 apples and soak covered in lemon juice concentrate.
Drain a large can or two regular sized cans of peaches.
Drain a can of pears.
Drain 2 to 3 cans of mixed fruit and pick out the green grapes.
(She did this because they are “too squishy” and too often had “brown spots”, but if you like them then you can just leave them in).
Drain 1 or 2 jars of maraschino cherries. Keep the juice! Remove stems if unable to get the stemless.
Drain 2 small cans or 1 large can of mandarin oranges.
Pick 1 cup each of fresh seedless green and seedless red grapes off the bunch and remove the stems. Cut the grapes in half.
Remove banana slices and diced apples from the juice and allow to drain on paper towels to remove excess lemon juice.
A little of the lemon juice is good for the salad but too much can make the salad too watery. Banana slices will feel a bit slimy after soaking but that goes away once they are mixed into the salad.
Pour 2 to 2-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream into mixing bowl. Add 1 or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 2 to 4 Tbsp. maraschino cherry juice from the jar or more to taste, and if desired sugar (or sugar substitute) to taste. Beat with electric mixer until thickened.
Granny’s whipped cream would be very faintly pink — if at all. My dad, however, likes it when you use enough maraschino cherry juice to actually turn the whipped cream a dark pink! He says he can make a meal on that and dinner rolls alone (and has more times than I can count).
Dice up the drained peaches and pears small, cutting out any brown or hard spots. Cut maraschino cherries in half.
In very large mixing bowl, mix all of the fruit together.
If desired, add 1 cup of pecans or walnuts, 1 cup shredded coconut, and 1 cup mini-marshmallows.
If Granny felt the shredded coconut was too dry — or that it felt like straw or like dried out, brown, Texas summer grass — she would soak it in warm (not hot) evaporated milk for 10 to 15 minutes then drain it well — and ring it out by hand and/or patted it dry with paper towel if needed — before adding it.
Stir in whipped cream.
Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Stir before serving as needed.