Thanksgiving Wouldn’t be Thanksgiving Without Spiced Orange Cranberry Relish


Austin, 11 months, listens intently as his Noni Doni describes the cranberries he'll taste Thursday. (OK, so I wanted to photograph the cranberries in daylight, which I'll do later. But Austin's cuter than cranberries, I think we can all agree.)

Reader and fellow foodie Erin Friedman commented here on the other day that she tended to stick to the same Thanksgiving recipes each year.

I can relate. I think most of us tend to rely on traditional foods – at least traditional for our particular families – when it comes to preparing that Thanksgiving meal.

While there was a brief period in my life when a sister-in-law and I thought it a good idea to make whatever “Bon Appetit” magazine published that year (cauliflower and kale dressing, anyone?), mostly I like the familiar at Thanksgiving. For me, that means turkey (not ham, not prime rib, not even roasted lamb, which I ordinarily love), and it means home-made yeast rolls, not store-bought rolls, and it means a sausage-fennel seed-sage-celery-onion stuffing baked in a casserole dish; not inside the bird. And it means baked yams, and God help me, I like them with orange juice, brown sugar and yes, yes, YES, topped with marshmallows.

Also, I’m the cranberry-relish ambassador, much as I’ve been the fruitcake ambassador for many years, too. In the case of both of these foods, I feel it’s up to me to convince people to give this pair of too-often-besmirched foods another chance, and oh, btw, I have the perfect recipes for them.

Take cranberries, please. As a kid, I believed, as many of us did, that nothing said Thanksgiving like a cylinder of ruby red cranberries plopped onto a plate from an Ocean Spray can, after which we let the can ridges be our cutting guide. No wonder most of us hated cranberries.

In my Spiced Orange Cranberry recipe, which I share each year, we’ll start with fresh cranberries that are simmered in a heavy pot with all kinds of Thanksgiving goodness, like cinnamon sticks, cloves, orange juice, grated orange zest, and oh my, I don’t want to spoil the surprise by telling you everything. One thing I will say, is that leftover cranberry relish is wonderful on sandwiches, and toast (all that pectin that makes the relish jell really puts it more in the jam-and-jelly category).

Because it’s Thanksgiving and I love you, I will share my secret of making a cranberry tart. I spread the cranberry relish in a tart (pie) crust, top it with a streusel mixture and bake it on a low rack in the oven long enough to make the crust golden and flaky. Top with whipped cream or ice cream and you’ve got yourself a slice of edible cranberry heaven. That’s my Thanksgiving gift to you. You’re welcome.

This year I’m a guest at someone else’s Thanksgiving, and although I offered to bring my cranberries,  they declined because they already had their cranberries covered.

But what’s Thanksgiving without cranberries? Thursday.

So I made the cranberries anyway. I will take them to the home of a dear friend who’s recuperating from knee surgery, which means she’s relying upon her culinary-able family to prepare their Thanksgiving meal, but rumor has it that cranberry relish may have not made the final menu cut. I figure that I’ll stash the dish of glistening cranberries in her refrigerator in a flash, and I’ll be backed out of her driveway before she can hobble from the couch to the door to stop thank me.

Just doing my part to spread the holiday good cheer. And cranberries. We can discuss fruitcakes next month.

In the meantime, readers, what are your must-have Thanksgiving foods? (Feel free to share the recipes, too.)

Spiced Orange Cranberry Relish

 1 (12-ounce) bag of fresh cranberries (about 3 cups), rinsed
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup orange liqueur (or more orange juice, if you don’t want to use alcohol)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds (optional)

Combine cranberries, sugar, orange juice, orange liqueur and spices (including cinnamon stick) in a medium, non-reactive saucepan.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the cranberries pop and the mixture begins to thicken. (This takes about 10 minutes.)

Remove the cranberries from the stove and let cool slightly. Stir in the orange rind (and nuts, if desired). Spoon the mixture into bowl, mold or container with a tight-fitting lid.

Cover and refrigerate until serving time, up to several days. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes about 2 cups.

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

15 Responses

  1. Avatar rmv says:


  2. Avatar LovestoEat says:

    My mouth is watering. Yummers!

  3. Avatar Canda says:

    Gosh, that sounds easy enough. I'm guilty of opening a can, but the can with the whole cranberries was always my preference. This recipe sounds yummy, but I agree, Austin is way cuter than any cranberry I've ever seen!

  4. Avatar Austins Dad says:

    You crack me up. Any excuse to show off your grandson. I'm not fooled though, I know that's his listening for birds face not his listening to cranberries recipe face.

    • lol, I'm busted, Josh. Guilty as charged. 🙂 There's no fooling Austin's daddy. You are right. That is Austin's listening-for-birds expression.

      This Thanksgiving I give thanks for the birth of this incredible little boy who brings so much joy to my world.

  5. Avatar Barbara N. says:

    Cranberries the easy way, buy the bag in the produce aisle. Cook according to the package directions. Serve to anyone who really wants to eat them!! I like a little cranberry relish, helps to refresh the palate, meanwhile I will freeze the rest and try to sneak them in sometime so my husband can enjoy them too!! Must haves, potatoes, gravy and stuffing, nothing over the top these days!! Austin is so adorable, hope he enjoys Thanksgiving with is Noni. Happy Thanksgiving to all the great chefs, you know who you are, the aspiring, and the just glad to not burn the potato chefs!!

  6. Avatar Paul Frye says:

    Hope that it's a great and blessed Thanksgiving. We (our Redding Family; wife Pat, daughter and her wife Meghan and Lori, g'Sons Ayden, Connor and Dominic "THE DOMINATOR.) Dominik asking for "I want what we ate yesterday" for b'fast(translation in to common Redding patois) "Mashed potatoes and gravy PLEASE." Well, we've got lots of lovely gravy, sweetpotatoes w marshmallows, turkey, candied carrots, 3 pies, Bob pie (more next time on Bob), apple and berry. All home made, mashed 'taties all gone.

    BTW Doni, have not heard back from the fruitcake consortium about my app and when to submit my HOOT-N-HOLLER Whiskey Cake, Bradislava rendition for the Koos crew. Pls let me know soon or I'll have to eat this one, too.

    I know that it's cliche', never stopped me before, but we all have much to be Thankful for and it does help (IMHO) to give voice to those gifts, enumerate them, when the family is assembled at the table.

    Peace and Love

  7. Avatar sharon chesnut says:

    thanks for the recipe – so what if I have a cookbook collection, subscribe to many food magazines, and read and participate in food blogs? I frequently have a Doni recipe on my table…..happy holidays to you. sharon

  8. Avatar Roy says:

    Hey…loved your glazed nut bread…ya goona send me your recipe?Gr8t seeing u.