Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and many of us will spend the next five days buying and prepping food. Before I get caught up in my own family gathering, here's a quick note about cranberries.
Some people love them, some people hate them. I was in the latter camp until I had some that did not come out of a can. And, really, they are so easy, there is no reason not to make your cranberry sauce with the real thing.
When we host Thanksgiving dinner, I make a simple cooked relish. Put the fresh cranberries in a heavy saucepan and cover with water. Add about 1/2 cup of sugar per each bag of berries. Add a little (and really just a little) Gran Marnier and a handful of dried cherries. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer on the back burner until the gravy is made. Hit it with the immersion blender for a few seconds to smooth it out. The cherries enhance both the tartness and the sweetness of the relish so you get a very full-bodied relish.
My sister totally trumps me, though. She's got a knack for the uber-traditional menu items. One year she brought roasted chestnuts in a maple sauce which were so good I insisted on taking some back to Maryland with me. Her cranberry relish is raw and crisp with a nice zing to it. She explained it to me last year, and hopefully I've gotten it right here.
Start with fresh cranberries but run them through the food processor to make a fine mince. Add some sugar, grated orange zest, and (this is the key) grated ginger. Chill for a few hours so everything gets well acquainted. You'll end up with a light, fresh relish that cleanses the palate. After all the rich creamy flavors of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, this is really a very nice accompaniment, and probably much closer to what it was when it was first invented.
Here's a link to the epicurious site for more fresh cranberry recipes.
If you have a favorite recipe that you would like to share, please email me at MarysFoodJournal@gmail.com and let me know how you would like to be identified (ie "a reader in Ellicott City" vs your actual name). Include any stories or traditions if you like.