A Thanksgiving staple, every house dons a bowl of cranberries, but how they are prepared varies greatly. This cranberry relish recipe is a base recipe to create something spectacular and be the star of your Thanksgiving showdown.
I hate Thanksgiving, Really
As I started hosting my own Thanksgiving dinners, I began to realize how many Thanksgiving foods I used to turn my nose up at. Not entirely sure when and why that started, but it was the truth. I just don’t like the foods.
The main offenders were turkey and of course, stuffing. Why would I like the main show? Aside from those two, the next on the list of things I didn’t care for was cranberry sauce/jelly/relish. Whatever you refer to it as I wanted no part of it.
Cranberry Relish’s tart taste didn’t pique my interest. I did, however, love the way the jellied kind slinked out of the can in one gelatinous mass. There was something super satisfying about that and slicing it into jelly discs. I wouldn’t dare eat it though.
It was so popular in my house that we had two kinds on the table. My mother used to have the “lumpy” and “smooth” kinds to cater to everyone.
Over the years, my palate and affinity towards certain dishes has changed and I’ve started to appriciate and recreate some of the classics to appeal more to my tastes. Here are a few stuffings, but scroll down past the recipe for turkey recipes that don’t suck.
What is Cranberry Relish?
Cranberry relish is simply a sauce made from fresh or frozen cranberries and sugar. A small amount of heat is applied so they caramelize and breakdown to a jam-like consistency.
Cranberry Sauce vs. Cranberry Relish
It is just semantics. They are the same thing.
However, an uncooked cranberry sauce is actually salsa, not relish.
How do you make cranberry relish? The process is simple, really, and close to making jelly or jam. Gather your ingredients:
- Cranberries- fresh or frozen (thawed)
- White granulated sugar
- Fresh lemon juice
- Pinch of fine sea salt
Add all of the ingredients to a large saucepan and allow to simmer until the cranberries break down and the sugar dissolves.
Next, run it through a fine mesh sieve. The solids you have left are your cranberry relish while the liquid can now be further simmered down into a delicious cranberry syrup.
History of Cranberry Relish
What I have come to appreciate is how much the tart flavor of cranberry sauce or relish can refresh your taste buds with each bite. It’s a little break from all the really rich deliciousness on the plate and gets your mouth ready for the next bite.
Historically, cranberry sauce was added to the Thanksgiving spread to balance and cut through the other fatty, savory dishes on the table like turkey, gravy and carb-heavy dressing.
What is Cranberry Relish Used For?
That goes for other meals and not just Thanksgiving. This batch was destined for two dishes and one condiment.
I topped my Spiced Pork Tenderloin, froze some for my Thanksgiving Day spread and also made Cranberry Mayo for leftover Turkey Roll-Ups. It is great even after having spent some time in the freezer and making it ahead clears up much-needed space in the kitchen on Turkey Day.
It truly is a great dish and I am so happy that I have seen the proverbial light and added it to my cooking repertoire. It is truly something else and you and your guests will not be disappointed.
Now the fun part: to customize your cranberry relish. Keep it simple with the recipe below or try one of these fun fun adds.
- Orange/Lime– Add 1 teaspoon orange/lime zest & 1 tablespoon orange/lime juice.
- Ginger– Add 2 teaspoons minced crystallized ginger (not raw, you want it sweetened).
- Nuts- Add 1 tablespoons toasted and chopped pecans or walnuts.
- Spices– Add 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice.
- Pears/Apple– Add 1/4 cup peeled and finely chopped pear/apple.
Make Ahead, Storage & Freezing
This recipe is perfectly fine to be made ahead, in fact you kind of need to in order to let it chill. It can also be served hot, but traditionally it is cold.
It can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight plastic container in the fridge. Give it a good stir before serving as it tends to get a little liquidy when it sits.
Can you freeze cranberry relish? This recipe is freezer friendly. Store for up to 3 months.
Since it is closer to a jam consistency, it can also be canned.
Try some of my other Thanksgiving Day side dish and dessert staples:
- Mascarpone Mashed Potatoes
- Pumpkin Cheesecake
- Green Beans with Mascarpone Cream Sauce
- Best Thanksgiving Sides
- Best Thanksgiving Desserts
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- Combine chopped cranberries, sugar, water, and sea salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil. You can hand chop or throw cranberries in a food processor for a few pulses.
- Stir until sugar is dissolved. Lower heat to medium and allow to simmer.
- Simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring sporadically with a wooden spoon. The mixture will be thick and sticky.
- Place a fine sieve or colander over a bowl. Strain mixture through, pressing down lightly on solids to get excess syrup out.*
- If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was!