Various versions of cranberry relish provide vivid color and a sweet-tart taste to your Thanksgiving table. Native Americans taught the Pilgrims to use the bright berries, and they have been part of American and Canadian harvest celebrations ever since.
Cranberries are full of vitamin C, fiber, and manganese. When you sort them, toss any shriveled or brown berries and any stems. Save the white and greenish berries, though, because they are full of flavor.
Cranberry relish comes in many styles. Here are five versions:
Mild cooked cran-apple relish
In this relish, the mildly sweet apples combat the bitterness some people taste in cranberries.
Combine all ingredients except vanilla. Simmer gently, covered, until the cranberries burst and the apples are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Do not overcook, because the cranberries may become bitter. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla if desired. Allow to cool uncovered, then cover and store in the refrigerator up to three days.
If there are leftovers, stir 1/4 cup into prepared cornbread mix, along with 1/4 cup grated mild cheese and a seeded, minced jalapeno or chipotle.
Uncooked cranberry-orange relish
Tangy, uncooked cran-orange relish is a newer tradition, but many families serve it year after year. If you use a food processor to shred ingredients, be careful not to over-process. This relish should be chunky.
Grind the ingredients together with a screw-type grinder, then cover, refrigerate and allow to mature for up to three days. Some families add a splash of Grand Marnier or similar orange liqueur.
Leftovers, if any, can flavor cream cheese or neufchatel to make a festive spread for nut bread or bagels.
Cooked cranberry walnut relish
Reduce or omit the candied ginger for a less assertive relish.
Combine all the ingredients except walnuts, ginger and rind, and bring to a boil. Simmer about 20 to 25 minutes, or until cranberries pop. Remove from heat and stir in rind and ginger. Allow to cool before stirring in walnuts. Cover and refrigerate.
Any leftovers work well in a turkey sandwich.
Cran-blueberry almond relish
A surprisingly sweet relish, with a moderately chunky consistency.
Pick over, rinse and drain cranberries and blueberries. Bring the water and sugar to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add cranberries, and return to boil. Simmer until cranberries pop, 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in blueberries, and let stand, covered, to cool. Add almonds, cover and refrigerate.
Cranberry ginger relish
A simple recipe with a sophisticated taste.
Simmer cranberries and ginger in apple juice until berries pop, about 20 minutes. Stir in vinegar, and allow to cool. Store covered. The flavor will intensify over time.
If you have leftovers, put a dab next to a grilled cheese sandwich.
Any relish recipe can be adapted to your family's taste. Add extra sugar to sweeten, and balance with lemon juice. Whole oranges add snap, while apples or pears mellow the sharp cranberry taste. Experiment, and make any recipe your own.