28 November 2013

A Cranberry Manifesto

I can't abide cooked, overly sweet cranberry sauce - you might as well put a jar of strawberry jam on the table with your turkey. I have no time for the cranberry sauce that plops out of a can, ridges and all. The raw cranberry orange relish? It's the only kind of cranberry sauce that graces my table. Cold, tangy, a nice biting edge, a good texture, it's the one I grew up on. See? Here's the recipe, in my mother's hand:

See her penciled notes? I can only assume - because I can't ask her - that once upon a time, cranberries came in a one pound bag. She had to adjust the recipe when they got downsized to 12 ounce bags, but you'll note that she dialed the sugar way back, catering to her own not-sweet tooth. It's better that way - brighter, bracing, an anti-dote to the heavy, rich gravy-mashed-stuffing-turkey assemblage on the Thanksgiving plate. It's why I like salad with my turkey - a bitter watercress and endive salad, dressed lightly with my favorite moscatel vinegar and some good olive oil, Sam Sifton be damned. (Also, Sam Sifton has never had Julia's purée de pommes de terre à l'ail or he wouldn't be all NO GARLIC IN THE POTATOES. I like a person with opinions, but I think he's got some funny ideas about Thanksgiving.)

Back to my mother and her cranberry recipe. Nowadays, you'd use a food processor, whirling electro-powered blades. But she says "food chopper". And what I remember is that she used an old-fashioned hand-cranked screw-onto-the-countertop meat grinder to make this, back in the day. If I were making the cranberry sauce, I might be tempted to dig out the meat grinder that attaches to the KitchenAid mixer, just to see, except that our mostly white kitchen would probably look like a crime scene afterwards. But I've no need, because my mother-in-law is bringing the cranberries - happily, she has no truck with the cooked stuff either.

Here's to you, and you, and you too. I'm grateful for all of you.


julochka said...

Happy Thanksgiving! my mom makes that relish as well and she also uses an old-fashioned meat grinder. i have one too, just for that purpose. the best part is popping the whole oranges into it, peel and all. it is the best relish. damn the canned stuff.

alejna said...

You know, I don't think I've ever had raw cranberry relish. Does it include the orange peel, or just the flesh of the orange?

I love home-made cooked cranberry sauce, in large part because you can control the sweetness. Phoebe made some for our dinner yesterday, and I had her use less sugar than the recipe on the bag suggested. She then had the idea to add cinnamon and cloves. It was very tasty.

And I actually have a certain fondness for the kind that plops out of the can. It's what I grew up with. My mother tells me that my grandmother used to make cranberry sauce, but by the time I entered the picture, it must have represented one of the ways in which my grandmother scaled things back. (Not that her Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners ever seemed scaled back to me.)

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I'm grateful for you as well!

S said...

Grateful for you, too. So grateful. xox

Jeanne said...

I had no idea you could eat cranberries raw.

Anonymous said...

We always included the orange peel but also added a bit less sugar and a fair amount of Grand Marnier!

Kizz at 117 Hudson said...

I brought some sugared whole cranberries to a party this weekend and another guest approached me, told me how lovely they were, and then explained how they were already halfway to being a cranberry sauce made just in the fridge. It was basically what you have here. I didn't have the heart to tell him that me and my sweet tooth are full can jellied sauce all the way! No pesky lumps of berry in my cranberry sauce, please! I know, I know, but the tongue wants what the tongue wants.