Photos by 
Jessicarobyn Keyser
Jessicarobyn Keyser

Move Aside Cranberry Sauce, Make Room for Cranberry Relish

by 
Cassandra Brooklyn
November 15, 2021

Growing up in Wisconsin in the ‘80s, I ate a lot of cheese, a lot of frozen fish sticks, and a lot of casseroles made with canned cream soup. My mother was – and still is – a horrible cook, but my siblings and I considered my grandmother to be a five-star chef. Never mind the fact that nearly all her dishes were partially or entirely made from processed foods. That’s all we knew and that’s what we loved.  

My grandmother came from an era when working women revelled in the new boxed, canned, and jarred convenience foods that allowed them to work full time both in the office and at home. My favorite recipe of hers has to be her spaghetti, made with Heinz tomato ketchup and Campbell’s tomato soup (she was as brand loyal as they come). My sister and I still can’t get enough of that very ‘80s ketchup-soup spaghetti mess, but we have yet to find a friend or boyfriend that can choke down more than a few bites.

Unlike my grandmother’s spaghetti recipe, I’ve found that other people actually enjoy her cranberry relish, which differs from most of her specialties in that it is made 100% from scratch. Given her propensity toward pre-made foods, I’m actually pretty shocked she never went the canned route.

As much effort as today’s home chefs make to wow their Thanksgiving guests with creative sides, salads, and slaws, I still feel that cranberries are often overlooked. I've often been surprised to find that the same cooks that go all out on the turkey and sides wind up just throwing a can of cranberry sauce (or worse, jelly!) on the table. Curse them!

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Even if someone takes the time to make homemade cranberry sauce (my sister makes a great sauce simmered with orange peel and cinnamon bark), I still prefer my grandmother’s relish. Thanksgiving foods are almost universally hot, cooked, and rich so I find that the tartness of this raw relish, along with its crunchy texture, really balance out a plate of meat, potatoes, stuffing, and, if you’re at my family’s dinner table, green bean casserole made with Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup.

Thanksgiving is always full of surprises and, quite often, frustrating and anxiety-producing ones. Kids are running around and driving you crazy, someone drops the gravy, the turkey is thrown in the oven before it’s thawed, supermarkets run out of popular items, or they are fully stocked and you just forget to grab a key ingredient. The potential list of mishaps is endless. What I love about this recipe is that it’s simple and flexible so there’s a lot less room for error. You can increase or decrease the amount of sugar, swap white sugar for brown, substitute green apples with red, leave on some or all of the orange rind, sprinkle in cinnamon, leave it as is, or perk it up with dried coconut, raisins, or toasted pumpkin seeds.

My grandmother passed away 12 years ago but not a single Thanksgiving has passed where I haven’t made her relish. It may be intended as a side dish but I just about eat it like gravy, pouring it all over my mashed potatoes and stuffing after portioning out a bit to save for tomorrow’s leftovers.

An All-Fresh Cranberry Relish

Prep time: 12 Mins
 | 
 | 
Yields about 1.5 quarts

Ingredients

2 lbs whole, fresh cranberries. Wash and sort, discarding soft or spoiled berries.

2 oranges, peeled, sectioned, and seeded

1 green apple, peeled, quartered, and seeded

1 cup white sugar

¼ tsp nutmeg

Squeeze of lemon juice

Prep time: 12 Mins
 | 
 | 
Yields about 1.5 quarts

Ingredients

2 lbs whole, fresh cranberries. Wash and sort, discarding soft or spoiled berries.

2 oranges, peeled, sectioned, and seeded

1 green apple, peeled, quartered, and seeded

1 cup white sugar

¼ tsp nutmeg

Squeeze of lemon juice

Ingredients

2 lbs whole, fresh cranberries. Wash and sort, discarding soft or spoiled berries.

2 oranges, peeled, sectioned, and seeded

1 green apple, peeled, quartered, and seeded

1 cup white sugar

¼ tsp nutmeg

Squeeze of lemon juice

Directions

1. Pulse to chop the cranberries, oranges, and apple together in a food processor.

2. Add nutmeg, lemon and sugar and mix thoroughly.

3. Taste and add more sugar if you like.

4. Chill at least one hour (this last step helps the flavors develop and deepen)

About the Author

Cassandra Brooklyn

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