Not My Mother’s Cranberry Relish

cranberry sauceWarm, fuzzy Norman Rockwell images of American family celebrations aside, my mother always served jellied cranberry sauce straight out of the can at holiday meals. If your mother did, too, the lines the can made on the sauce are no doubt indelibly imprinted upon your conscious memory.

I remember that we always carefully sliced the sauce and delivered it quivering onto our plates next to the candied sweet potatoes and the green jello.

I see that canned jellied cranberry sauce is still for sale in my local supermarket. I guess it still has a nostalgic mid-century Americana vibe at some Thanksgiving tables. You know. June Cleaver in the apron. Ward dithering in the background. Wally and the Beav, napkins tucked into their collars, punching each other in the upper arm while salivating at the prospect of an indulgent Thanksgiving meal complete with quivering jellied cranberry sauce and green jello.

This is my answer to the canned stuff. I’ve made this cranberry relish forever. Well, actually, I’ve made this since 1969. That is the date on the recipe pasted in my cookbook. The recipe is adapted from the original recipe from the Los Angeles Times.

You are on your own to find a substitute for the green jello…or not.

Recipe: Cranberry Relish

1 lb. cranberries
2 C. sugar
1 C. water
1  two-and-a-half inch stick of cinnamon
2 medium apples, pared and thinly sliced
Grated peel of 1 lemon
Grated peel of 2 tangerines
3 tangerines, peeled,separated into segments and seeded


Wash and drain cranberries. In a heavy saucepan mix cranberries, sugar, water, cinnamon stick, apples, and grated peel of lemon and tangerines. Bring to a boil while stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Cranberry skins should pop and apples should turn transparent. Cool and transfer mixture to a bowl. Stir in segmented tangerines. Chill thoroughly. Remove cinnamon stick before serving.

3 thoughts on “Not My Mother’s Cranberry Relish”

  • Hey, you described our Thanksgiving family table, down to the two brothers hitting each other and my mother continuously saying,"Stop it, we're trying to have a nice family meal." Since I did not know any better in those days, I actually looked forward to the can imprinted jelled cranberry sauce. I will have to try this one next Thanksgiving. Sounds delicious.

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