As Thanksgiving gets nearer (for those of you in the U.S., anyway — in Canada, we had it last month, so you get the benefit of my recent experience), you probably know you’re expected to serve cranberries in some form. You may think your only choices are canned cranberry sauce, shaped exactly like the inside of the can, or homemade cranberry sauce, which you carefully concoct from fresh cranberries and boiling syrup. But there’s another option that’s fresh, homemade, and no-cook: Cranberry relish.
I discovered cranberry relish a few years ago while writing reviews of Thanksgiving cookbooks. You’ll find recipes for it in many vintage cookbooks; I’m not sure why it fell out of popularity so far that I’d never heard of it. The first cranberry relish recipe I made was pretty elaborate, with maple syrup, oranges, and lots of other sweet ingredients added to the cranberries. Over the years I’ve made my own simpler versions, and this year I think I hit on a winner. Some cranberry relish recipes include fresh ginger, so I decided to try pickled ginger, the kind that comes with sushi but that you can also get in the store.
You’ll need a food processor for this. Food mills are great for apples, but raw cranberries are too hard for them. The only way to do it by hand, unless you want to cut up each cranberry with a knife and hammer each nut, would be with a manual meat grinder, if they still exist, and then cross contamination might be an issue.
Fresh cranberries are usually cheap around Thanksgiving, and though they’re too sour to be eaten as is, there are plenty of uses for them in side dishes like this and in desserts. The sourness mellows a little when they’re cooked, though they still need plenty of sweetening. Chopping up the berries, as in this recipe, also keeps the sourness from hitting so hard. They’re not going to replace anyone’s favorite fruit, but your family can learn to like them.
- 2 cups fresh cranberries
- ½ cup white sugar
- 1 tablespoon pickled ginger with vinegar
- ¼ cup pecan halves (optional)
- Pick over cranberries and wash them.
- Put in food processor with steel blade.
- Add other ingredients.
- Process for a few seconds till everything is chopped medium coarse.
- Serve with your turkey, but don’t keep this more than a couple of days after Thanksgiving. Once the cranberries are chopped, they seem to go off quickly.