When the English settlers arrived in Massachusetts in 1621, they found an unfamiliar, low-growing fruit: the cranberry. Despite the myths, it’s unlikely that the diners feasted on cranberry sauce at the first Thanksgiving, according to Giving Thanks, a history of the holiday from Plimoth Plantation (Clarkson Potter, 2005). Instead, the settlers may have used a few berries to sharpen their broths and sauces.
Americans have made up for that since then. Some kind of cranberry sauce – simmered with sugar and spices, jellied or canned – appears on most Thanksgiving menus. This easy recipe comes from my husband’s aunt, Dina, a beloved guest at every family holiday. She always brought an assortment of pies, from pumpkin to apple, happily experimenting each year with crust and filling variations. Since she passed away, we honor her by making her recipes. I recently found this one in my mother-in-law’s collection and plan to bring it to our Thanksgiving this year. In the meantime, I stirred my test batch into plain yogurt, used it to top turkey sandwiches, and even ate it plain. Ever the inventive cook, Dina wouldn’t mind my suggestions of lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract, or 1-2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger as potential additions to her recipe. Since it doesn’t require cooking, this relish will keep the stove and oven free for other parts of the Thanksgiving feast.
3 cups cranberries (12 to 16 ounces)
1 apple, quartered and seeds removed
1 whole orange, quartered, pulp and seeds removed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar, or to taste [I used 3/4 cup]
- Place all ingredients in a food processor or a food mill. Pulse until chopped but not liquefied.
- Let stand at least 2 hours to let the flavors blend. Refrigerate leftovers.