What's for Thanksgiving? Cranberries


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Cranberry sauce is kind of like stinky cheeses. You either can't get enough of the stuff, or you can't get it far enough away from your plate.

Most of us fall into the first category. Americans will gobble up some 5 million gallons of the sweet-tart sauce during the holiday season alone, or enough to fill five of those giant balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Most of it will be served directly out of the can at room temperature, without the slightest attempt to disguise the can's seam lines.

My running buddy Tracey is one such devotee. She might dress up its presentation in her grandmother's crystal bowl after cutting the gelatinous roll into 1/2-inch-thick slices, but basically, it's plop to plate each year.

"I can't stand it when people cut it up, because it's got to have ridges," she says. "We love those ridges."

I'm not one to argue with tradition, especially when it involves antique glassware and the approval of more than 74 percent of Americans (that's how many serve store-bought sauce at Thanksgiving dinner). Still. If you're among the ruby fruit haters, maybe it's because you've never had a really good fresh homemade cranberry sauce.

This week, in the last of our four-part series on Thanksgiving dishes, we offer four recipes that are guaranteed to change your mind about from-scratch cranberry sauces: three that are cooked, and one that celebrates the raw berry, a staple in the Native American diet since at least the 1500s. They're easy enough, and with such pretty results, that even the beginning cook will look like a culinary genius.

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Think about it this way: The Pilgrims probably weren't crazy about the wild cranberries dished up by their new friends at the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth in 1621, either. But by 1703, it was a popular enough dish that cranberries were served at the Harvard University commencement dinner. All those smart people can't be wrong, right?


Classic Cranberry Sauce

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This classic cooked sauce is flavored with just a hint of cinnamon and orange zest. So easy, and so fantastic.

-- Gretchen McKay

  • 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice, apple cider or pomegranate juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Pinch of kosher salt

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine cranberries, orange juice, sugar, orange zest, cinnamon stick and salt and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce has thickened and all of the berries have burst, about 15 minutes.

Remove from heat, let cool and remove and discard cinnamon stick. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days (bring to room temperature before serving).

Makes about 2 cups.

-- "The Macy's Culinary Council Thanksgiving & Holiday Cookbook" (Book Kitchen, 2011, $24.95)



Cranberry Chutney

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The onion and spices make this a savory twist on the usual cranberry sauce. If you're looking for something just a little different this year, this could be your answer. The golden raisins plump up and give the chutney a nice texture.

-- Rebecca Sodergren

  • 3 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, or one 1-pound package frozen cranberries
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 2 naval oranges, 1 segmented and 1 juiced
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 teaspoon each ground cloves, ground ginger, ground allspice and ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large saucepan, combine cranberries, apple, orange segments and juice, raisins and chopped onion. Add brown sugar, spices and salt to the mixture. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring often, for about 20 minutes, or until thick and bubbly.

Remove pan from heat and allow chutney to cool completely. Serve right away, and store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 5 cups.

-- "P. Allen Smith's Seasonal Recipes from the Garden" (Clarkson Potter, 2010, $32.50)



Cranberry Chipotle Relish

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  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 chipotle pepper packed in adobo sauce, minced

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it foams. Toss in shallot and saute until soft, about 2 minutes. Season with a touch of salt. Stir in raisins, cranberries, orange juice, water, sugar and chipotle pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring on occasion, for 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and refrigerate at least 30 minutes until ready to serve.

Makes 31/2 cups.

-- "The Neelys' Celebration Cookbook" by Pat and Gina Neely with Ann Volkwein (Knopf, 2011, $28.95)



Cranberry Salsa with Cilantro and Chiles

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To show off the tangy freshness of cranberries, don't cook them at all. Chopping the raw berries in the processor gives them a coarse texture, which is great alongside the turkey and the trimmings. Plus, the recipe comes together in 20 minutes.

-- China Millman

  • 4 teaspoons pumpkin seed oil (sesame oil is a good subtitute)
  • 1/2 cup natural unsalted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
  • Sea salt
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries or frozen, thawed
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped green onions (dark green parts only; about 2 bunches)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons minced seeded serrano chiles
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add pepitas; stir until golden, about 1 minute. Transfer to plate; sprinkle with sea salt.

Place cranberries in processor. Using on/off turns, process until finely chopped. Transfer to bowl. Add onions, cilantro and chiles. Stir together sugar and lime juice in another bowl until sugar dissolves. Cranberry and lime juice mixtures can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover separately; chill.

Add cranberry mixture and pepitas to lime juice mixture; stir to combine.

Makes about 3 cups

-- Bon Appetit, November 2010

• The Food & Flavor section publishes on Thursdays but is early this week because of Thanksgiving. It will resume on Dec. 1.


Gretchen McKay: gmckay@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1419.


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