Martha Hall Foose's Mother of the Church Ambrosia

Easy, Summer Dessert

GMA cherries
Difficulty: Easy
Cook Time: min

from "Screen Doors and Sweet Tea":

Charlotte Miles came to work for our family one day right after we got home from my father's medical residency in Ohio, the summer I learned to write cursive. She walked up the driveway in a white nurse's uniform, and she informed my mother she had taken care of Doc when he was a baby and was here to take care of us now. She lived in a red house on Cherry Street. She was a Mother of the Church. When asked exactly what that meant, she said it meant you were "not compelled."

Upon further inquiry, it became apparent that it meant you were not compelled to do anything. Not compelled to feed the preacher, not compelled to have folks over after a funeral, not compelled to do pretty much anything you didn't feel like doing anymore, as you had done enough through the years. And you get to sit in the back row, so you can leave early without everybody seeing, or right up front in the first row. I hope to live long enough and do enough good works to be "not compelled."

Making proper ambrosia requires a good deal of labor and is offered lovingly by many mothers of the church. This dish gives you a lot of time to think while cutting the oranges and grating the coconut. I think about Miss Charlotte and her little red house on Cherry Street, and her years of kind works.


  • 8 navel oranges
  • 1 coconut, cracked and shredded (or 1 1/2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut)
  • 1 pineapple, cleaned, cored, and finely chopped, about 3 cups
  • 2 cups maraschino cherries (see Notes)
  • Cooking Directions

    Using a sharp knife, cut a small slice from each end of the oranges just large enough to expose the flesh and provide a flat base. Set the oranges on a cutting board.

    With steady strokes, follow the contour of the oranges, removing rinds, spongy piths, and stringy membranes. Carefully hold the fruit over a bowl to catch the juice, and cut between the membranes to free the segments from the oranges, giving a good squeeze to the remaining membranes once the sections have been removed to get every drop of juice.

    Combine the orange segments and their reserved juice with the coconut, pineapple, and cherries. Let mellow in the refrigerator for 2 hours before serving chilled.


    Drop hard-to-peel citrus in boiling water for a few minutes and then in ice water to loosen the pith and peel.

    To make maraschino cherries, soak 1 pound pitted fresh Queen Anne cherries (2 cups) or frozen tart red cherries in 2 cups maraschino liqueur and 1/2 cup sugar overnight. Drain before adding to the ambrosia.

    This dish is pretty served in a cut-glass punch bowl. Ms. Lucy Gladness is a Mother of the Church at the East Percy Street Christian Church. She has done many good works and makes a fine ambrosia.

    *Courtesy Martha Hall Foose " Screen Doors and Sweet Tea"

    Recipe Summary

    Main Ingredients: oranges, coconut, pineapple

    Course: Dessert

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