Whether you call it sauce, salad, relish, or jelly – there is hardly a Thanksgiving table without a cranberry dish included. Cranberries are the perfect accompaniment to this bountiful holiday because the tartness of the fruit helps balance the richness of gravy, starchy vegetables, and the creamy casseroles that are sure you have a place on your Turkey Day menu.
Do you prefer your cranberries with a sprinkle of sugar, or are you hoping for a sweet dish with just a hint of tart? We have both preferences covered! We’re taking a stroll down memory lane with Mary Starr’s classic Cranberry Relish, and we’re throwing in a contemporary update.
First, let’s start with the classic. One of the great things about Mary Starr’s dish is its simplicity. It is just a handful of ingredients, and it makes enough for your Thanksgiving Day meal and leftovers! The fresh apples and celery, along with the nuts, provide a satisfying crunch that pairs nicely with the softer texture of your other mains and sides. Mary Starr’s dish is a gelatin salad style cranberry relish. Gelatin salad was quite popular at the time she was cooking on WATE-TV. In fact, there are more than a dozen gelatin salads included in her cookbook. This bright red salad made in a circular mold would be a beautiful pop of color and nostalgia on any table.
Cranberry Relish or Salad
From Mary Starr Cookbook from WATE 6
2 cups raw cranberries
1 package orange, lemon, or raspberry gelatin
1 large orange
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups boiling water
½ cup celery, cut fine
½ cup apple, cut fine
½ cup nuts, cut fine
Put cranberries (washed) and orange (cut into sections and only seeds removed…peel left on) through food chopper. Add salt and sugar and allow to stand two hours. When ready to combine ingredients, pour boiling water over gelatin and allow to cool after stirring thoroughly to dissolve gelatin. Add celery, apple and nuts. Combine the two mixtures, spoon into desired molds and chill until set.
As timeless as Mary Starr’s recipe is, it is also very sweet, and with a gelatin base, the cranberry does not shine as the star of this dish. Taking the original as inspiration, here is our take on cranberry side that balances the sweet and tart.
Cranberry Orange Relish
By Melanie Morris, inspired by Mary Starr’s Cranberry Relish
2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 cup cranberry juice (100% juice)
½ cup sugar
2 oz orange liquor
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
½ half apple, finely chopped
½ cup walnuts, chopped
Place the cranberries in a food processor with the zest and juice of one orange. Process until cranberries are completely broken down, leaving only smooth mixture.
In a small saucepan, heat cranberry juice over medium heat. Once warmed, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add cranberry orange mixture and orange liquor.
Increase heat to medium-high. Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until reduced by half (about 20 minutes).
Remove from heat and allow to cool 10-15 minutes. Add chopped celery, apple, and nuts. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
This updated relish hits the flavor and texture high points of Mary Starr’s original. It takes only about half an hour to make from start to finish, and can be made ahead as it will keep well in the fridge for several days.