Seasonal Flavors: Cranberries


By Denise Zito

I admire the cook whose recipes are neatly filed in notebooks or boxes. This kind of cook prefers the 3-by-5 notecard or, even better, the plastic sleeves to protect the recipes from splatter. I am not that cook.  My 40-year collection of recipes are torn from the newspaper (because I can never find my scissors), or written on a sheet of notepaper that an older female relation was sure I would copy onto the notecard when I got home (ha!).  I’ve now got three boxes of recipes.  One lists A – N, the second M – Z, and the third has all the cookies and desserts. The boxes are fingerprinted, the dividers dog-eared, the recipes stained, but I love them all and can find whatever I need in this semi-organized chaos that I call my file system.

This brings us to Thanksgiving and the fascinating subject of the cranberry and its various sauce incarnations.  I like to talk with friends and new acquaintances to explore their family traditions, especially the food surrounding our American November feast.  My Maryland friend Kate has sauerkraut, my own Danish in-laws must have red cabbage, while my Sicilian tribe wants a stuffed artichoke with their stuffed turkey.

Then there are what I like to call the cranberry wars: canned or fresh? That jellied stuff? Well, I suppose it induces nostalgia because I do know some people who can’t live without it on the Thanksgiving table because it means home. Don’t worry, if you’re one of them I will not reveal your identity because if I do, you will never be thought ‘cool’ again. My own mother, who rarely cooked, still made the cranberries from scratch, including grated orange zest. So if it’s not full of whole cranberries, I don’t consider it the real deal.

But when you have a huge crowd, it’s nice to serve some variety.  So in addition to Mom’s version of the traditional (boiled cranberries, sugar, orange zest, chilled and served), I’ll prepare this dish so people have a choice. Almost a dessert, it has substance and crunch.

And oh—the recipe is written on a piece of brown paper bag—I got it from my friend Gail Barker and it is dated 1988. Should I go ahead and transcribe it onto an index card?  Nah.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Thanksgiving Cranberry Delight

  • 1 bag cranberries
  • 6 apples, peeled and
  • coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 jar apricot preserves
  • 2 seconds of brandy,
  • i.e. hold the open bottle over
  • the bowl and pour while
  • counting ONE, TWO.
  • I’m serious, that’s the recipe.
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Mix all except the pecans, pour into an ovenproof baking dish, top with the nuts, then bake for an hour at 3750F.  Best served warm.  And yes, I’m sorry to give you another dish that needs the oven at Thanksgiving. Who has space? But it’s worth it.