The Gottahave

Every family has that gotta-have-it dish, the one somebody’s been making for so long that no one remembers who first brought it or where the recipe came from.

One year, it’s accidentally left off the Thanksgiving checklist—or some smartypants decides to try a version she saw in Gourmet or the Times or Jamie Oliver or wherever—and the next year, over sheepish spoonfuls of the tried and true, somebody busts out a remember-when folly about the detour.

For us, that gottahave is cranberry-orange relish.

That’s Gramma C’s bowl. Except for holidays, it was filled with Starlight mints.

Uncooked. Bright. Tangy. Sweet. Fresh. And a perfect foil to all that richness on the rest of your plate.

It takes all of 15 minutes to make (including clean-up); it keeps a couple weeks in the fridge, easily outlasting the turkey leftovers (give it a go with pork tenderloin); and it freezes well, too (save half for Christmas).

Fresh Cranberry-Orange Relish

I’ll give you the framework here (just berries, sugar, and a whole orange). If you want to riff, I’ve had great success with three variations: (1) adding half a small red onion, (2) adding a knob of fresh ginger, (3) subbing in 1/3-cup of granulated maple sugar for a 1/2-cup of the regular.

Over the years, I’ve seen similar recipes on the web, but nothing that pre-dates when this stuff first hit our family table decades ago, so Mom, if you remember where this originated, maybe you could weigh in with a comment. 

Here in Philadelphia, close to the bogs in South Jersey, we usually get a box or two of cranberries in our CSA share each fall. Lucky us.
  • 2 cups fresh (or frozen) cranberries, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 orange, preferably seedless

Scrub the oranges and cut them into rough chunks. If they have seeds, do your best to pop them all out.

Put everything into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Give it a blitz until everything is nicely combined. Texture is important here, so stop well short of a full-on puree. I aim for a fine mince, which, with my machine, doesn’t take more than 30 seconds or so. Don’t worry if it looks dry at this point—it’ll be plenty juicy shortly.

This version has a touch of red onion and a mix of maple and cane sugars. It has a bite, but a mellow bite.

Let the fruits and sugar macerate in a covered bowl for at least 4 hours (even better overnight). Refrigerate for up to two weeks—or freeze for up to six months. Before serving, bring it to room temperature and give it a good stir.

This batch’ll serve 8-10 folks. Scale it up for more guests. Or for more leftovers.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Dear Boxing Day, I find recipes, like tiresome visiting relatives on the holidays, can always benefit from a little liquor. I just made this with Luxardo (the original boozy syrup for Maraschino cherries) in place of the sugar. *Hiccup*

    1. Susan says:

      ((Runs to the cupboard))

  2. Joan C says:

    One of the best parts of that recipe is that no one believes they are eating raw cranberries! Can’t wait to make it next week for my favorite holiday.

    1. Susan says:

      Wish I️ we’re going to be at that table, Joan!

  3. Murphy says:

    Hello Susan! I make a variation of this. I usually use some Grand Marnier. I’ve will try with the orange rind on as you mentioned elsewhere.

    1. Susan says:

      Murph! Sounds like you and Joy are on the same page. Again.

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