Cranberry Relish

Here’s how I see it.  On the Thanksgiving table there are the essentials: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and rolls.  Then there are the nice-to-haves: a green vegetable, corn casserole, pumpkin pie.  Then finally, the category I would describe as traditional frippery.  These items seem to exist solely to take up every last inch of space on the table. They are there for ceremonial purposes.  I would include in this category all items on the relish tray, pickles, olives, anything with marshmallows in or on it, mincemeat pies, and cranberry sauce.

We always had two kinds of cranberry sauce on the table when I was a kid—the smooth kind from a can, and the chunky kind from a can.  And as far as I can remember, nobody ate either.  But it was traditional, so it was there, right next to the olives.  The olives were much more exciting: jumbo black olives that, only at the holidays, we were allowed to stick on all of our fingers.

Oh, canned cranberry sauce…how I do loathe thy cloying sweetness.  I’m not going into full rant mode about this gelatinous red tube, as Debra over at Smith Bites has ably covered the subject—see her treatise and consider it mine–although we do differ, Debra and I, on the sucking sound when the cranberry sauce leaves the can, which I always rather enjoyed.  But when it came to eating the stuff—no thanks.  It just oozed into the other food on my plate, staining it a disturbing blood red like shark-infested waters, and tainting my gravy with yucky sweetness.  Besides, I needed all available plate space for the essentials.

Then last Thanksgiving, my Sissy served a cranberry sauce that was actually edible.  Not just edible—good, even.  Really good.  Fresh, a glowing deep ruby red, and not particularly sweet.  I was impressed.   I gladly made room on my plate for it.

And this year, as I am hosting Thanksgiving at my house, I decided to make her Cranberry Relish again.

It’s not really much harder than opening the dreaded can of cranberries.  Just some quick chopping, stirring, and boiling.  And this cranberry sauce is so worth it.  The flavor is complex and layered.  Tart, a little sweet, smoky, and spicy, all at once.  Its bright flavor is a refreshing foil for the richness of turkey and stuffing.

I’m hoping it will become a new tradition.

Cranberry Relish

(adapted from Bobby Flay)

  • 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeno, finely diced
  • 1 ½ cups orange juice
  • ¾ cup bourbon
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 12 oz fresh cranberries or frozen, thawed
  • 2 tsp grated fresh orange zest
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and jalapeno and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the orange juice and bourbon, bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the sugars and cook until completely dissolved. Add half of the cranberries and cook until they pop and are very soft, about 6 minutes. Add the remaining cranberries and orange zest and cook until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and fold in the herbs. Transfer to a bowl and serve at room temperature.

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7 thoughts on “Cranberry Relish

  1. Natalie

    I can just imaging your table heaving with delicious food, it is truly making my mouth water. This relish recipe sounds really great. I made some cranberry sauce last year and it was vile, but I will book mark this recipe to try at our pre-Christmas family meal. Have a great Thanksgiving Rowdy.

    Also, can ANYONE tell me – will there be restaurants open on Christmas day in New York, can any be recommended and do I need to book!

    1. The Rowdy Chowgirl Post author

      Natalie, there will definitely be lots of restaurants open in New York on Christmas day, not to worry! I’m going to ask for recommendations for you…

  2. Monet

    Bourbon, jalepeno…this cranberry relish puts mine to shame! Thankfully, we never ate the canned or jarred variety growing up (always homemade) so I’ve liked the stuff for a good while. But I’m still sure that your relish is far better than what we’re use to! Thank you for sharing…I hope you have a wonderful weekend full of good eating and fun!

  3. Victoria

    I love it! Then again, I love most condiments, relishes, chutneys and sauces. But reall cranberry relish I do enjoy. Canned stuffed is out of the question. Your guests will really enjoy this.


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