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 anewscafe.com 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 anewscafe.com 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 anewscafe.com.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's 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's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate, Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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