This is a classic strawberry gelatin salad with a salty pretzel crust and sweet cream cheese filling. Cooks started making it in the 1960s and usually served it in a large baking dish. For entertaining, I think it works well to place it into canning jars to make individual servings. They are cute single servings that people love. However, make extras because one is never enough!
I chose to use canning jars to make this salad because you can bake the pretzel crust in them. Also, they are clear, which means that you can see the pretty salad through the glass. If you want to use other clear glass containers, make sure they are heat-safe for baking the crust. If you can find half-sized jars (4 or 8 ounces), as shown below, they will work best because it is easier to keep the ingredients in proportion to one another.
Making the Crust
Make the crust by crushing the pretzels very fine. A pretzel crust can be hard to chew with larger pieces of hard pretzels. A food processor works well for crushing pretzels, but you can also use a small electric chopper. Crush them by hand using a heavy-duty reclosable bag and a rolling pin. Be sure to squeeze out as much air as possible from the bag before starting, or rolling the rolling pin over the bag can make it burst.
You do not need to grease the jars before adding the crust. Once added, tamp down the crust using a tamp or a small flat-bottomed cup or heavy glass.
Bake the crust and then allow it to cool completely before adding the cream cheese filling.
Making the Filling
It is best to use a mixer to make the cream cheese filling. However, if the cream cheese is at room temperature and soft, you can mix it using a whisk. Just stir it until all the sugar dissolves. Place the mixture onto the cooled crust and then place all the jars into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes so the cream cheese can chill and set.
Use fresh strawberries for the strawberry gelatin layer of the salad. Chop the berries very fine, so they are easier to eat. Add the strawberry layer after the heated gelatin cools so it doesn’t melt the cream cheese layer. Then place all the jars back into the refrigerator for at least four hours to let the gelatin thicken.
Decorate the Jars
Garnish the jars with mint or other edible mini leaves. Also, consider adding flags to make a patriotic dessert to serve on Memorial Day or Independence Day. But this salad jells with people anytime, so consider making it to eat during the winter holidays.