Cranberries are as much a part of a traditional Thanksgiving feast as turkey. While there is no evidence that cranberries were served at the very first Thanksgiving, they were a part of the Native American diet and soon became a staple in the new colonists’ diet as well. “By the late eighteenth century an average midday colonial meal included cranberries in some form — mostly sauced,” stated Lynn Kerrigan on globalgourmet.com.
The round, red fruit is still an important part of the American diet today. Besides being added to toothsome muffins and breads, many people use the juice as a preventative for urinary tract problems, and there is some evidence of antioxidant qualities. The American Cranberry is grown mostly in Wisconsin, but it is also farmed in Massachusetts, and to a lesser extent in New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington.
For many, their expectation of cranberries as a side dish comes from the sauce or jelly in cans. While this is indeed easy, it isn’t what I expect. My mom took a gourmet cooking class in the mid 70s and completely changed our family’s feelings on the ruby sauce. Instead, each year a lovely, multi-flavored relish is presented on our thankful Thursday table.
The recipe my mom learned in that class is below, with a little added tip just from her.
1 pound cranberries
1 c granulated sugar
½ c packed brown sugar
½ c golden raisins
1½ t ground cinnamon
½ t ground ginger
½ t ground cloves
¼ t ground allspice
1 c water
1 c chopped onion
1 c chopped cored pared baking apple
½ c chopped celery
Simmer cranberries, sugars, raisins, spices and 1 cup water uncovered in 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until juice is released from berries, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat; stir in remaining ingredients. Simmer uncovered until thick, about 15 minutes. Refrigerate covered up to 2 weeks.
One pound frozen cranberries can be substituted for fresh.
(I throw everything into the pot together and simmer until really thick. Sometimes that takes 30-45 minutes.)