FARGO — As we start National Peach Month and are surviving in an often tense and divisive world, I’d like to use a peach recipe to help bring us all together. More on that in a minute.

First, when you think of peaches, don’t you think of Georgia or any other state in the Deep South? I do.

I imagine a lazy Sunday spent in a place with a name like Chattahoochee or Dixie Union rocking on a front porch, fanning myself, nibbling peach cobbler and saying, “Pass the sweet tea, y’all." (For any true Southerner reading this, forgive my naive Northern brain if I have this all wrong.)

But those of us in the Midwest like our peaches, too. So how do we “Midwestify” the peach? Well, by mixing it up with a little Jell-O and Cool Whip and calling it "salad."

The Peach Pretzel Jell-O Salad is a sweet-and-salty treat that, if you look at Pinterest, seems to have resonated with Midwestern cooks and bakers. This recipe is all over the internet and is a variation on the even more popular Strawberry Pretzel Jell-O Salad, which is a delightful early summer treat.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

I ended up combining elements of a Peach Pretzel Jell-O Salad recipe from two different sources: Made to be Momma and The Creative Bite. I liked that one added brown sugar and cinnamon to the pretzel crust, while the other suggested using an egg to make for a richer cream cheese layer. I used both suggestions in my recipe.

I also decided to include more pretzels in the crust because I like a crusty dessert, and I opted for Extra Creamy Cool Whip, because why wouldn’t I opt for something with the words “Extra Creamy” in the title?

Adding honey and bourbon to whipped cream gives a little Southern flair to the Peach Pretzel Jello dessert. If you want to go alcohol free just add vanilla extract instead of bourbon. iStock
Adding honey and bourbon to whipped cream gives a little Southern flair to the Peach Pretzel Jello dessert. If you want to go alcohol free just add vanilla extract instead of bourbon. iStock

Now here’s where I get to the part about having a recipe bringing us all together. While this dessert “Midwestifies” the peach, I’ve decided to add something definitely Southern to bring it all full circle: a Honey Bourbon Whipped Cream. Well, I do declare! This combination might just give me the vapors.

Bourbon was a favorite cocktail for my Tennessee-born Grandma Charlotte. Its smoky, rich flavor is a nice complement to the peach dessert. For extra flair, I even soaked my peach garnish in bourbon before placing it in the whipped cream.

Of course, Honey Bourbon Whipped Cream is completely optional, and the dessert is great without it. But don’t blame me if you neglect to make both, and we head into another war between the states.

Midwestern Peach Pretzel Jell-O Salad

Serves: 12

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces peach flavored Jell-O (orange is OK to use)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3 cups mini pretzel twists or sticks
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons salted butter, melted
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 8 ounces Extra Creamy Cool Whip, thawed
  • 2 ½ cups fresh peeled peaches, sliced into small pieces (drain if using frozen peaches)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup plus 2 teaspoons bourbon (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
  • 2-3 peaches, for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine peach Jell-O with 2 cups of boiling water, then let cool at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Crush pretzels in a plastic bag until they reach a consistency of a mixture of large and small crumbs.

Add melted butter, cinnamon and brown sugar to the pretzels, then press the combined mixture into a 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes uncovered. Let cool.

Beat the cream cheese, sugar and egg yolk until creamy. Fold in the thawed Cool Whip and spread over the pretzel mixture, making sure it reaches the edges of the pan so the Jell-O mixture won’t leak into the pretzels.

Mix peaches into the Jell-O and pour mixture on top of the cream cheese layer. For a more symmetrical look, pour the Jell-O alone on the cream cheese mixture, and gently place the peaches in rows. Let chill until the Jell-O is set, at least 2 hours.

While Jell-O is setting, cut up 2-3 more peaches and place in 1 cup of bourbon. Let soak for at least 1 hour. Shortly before serving, mix whipping cream, honey and 2 teaspoons bourbon until it reaches whipped cream consistency.

Cut desserts into squares and place a dollop of whipped cream in the center of each, then place a bourbon-soaked peach slice in the center of the whipped cream. For children, don’t soak the peach in bourbon and substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla in the whipped cream.