Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cranberry & Wine Relish

Since college, a group of friends and I have gotten together to celebrate Thanksgiving. Many of us either have to work the holiday weekend or have families on the other side of the country, making it sensible for us all to have Thanksgiving together. Anyone who's in town is welcome to attend and the guests vary from year to year. No matter who is in attendance, we always manage to have a lot of fun. Cocktails and no cranky Aunt Lou Lou tend to make the occasion a bit more merry!

This recipe has evolved over time at our annual Thanksgiving celebrations and is the real deal. Cranberry sauce often gets pushed aside, but there's no reason why it shouldn't be a standout dish at the table. To me, this recipe just tastes like the holidays. Homemade cranberry sauce, or relish, is leagues better than that canned stuff (something that I'm sure would leave the Pilgrim's baffled). That being said, I still have one friend who occasionally smuggles in his beloved canned cranberry despite my homemade offerings, more for nostalgia's sake than anything else. But in my opinion, this recipe beats the can every time. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!


1½ lb. fresh cranberries (about 6 cups)
1/3 cup red wine
1/3 cup water
Juice of 1 orange (about 1/3 cup)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp. orange zest, finely grated
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. allspice
¼ tsp. nutmeg 
½ cup walnuts, roughly chopped and toasted
½ cup pecans, roughly chopped and toasted
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup red raisins
Aged balsamic, for garnish (optional)

Wash and pick over the cranberries; remove stems and discard any shriveled berries. Combine wine, water, orange juice, and sugar in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup has slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. 

Add the cranberries, return to a boil, and then immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer the berries in the syrup uncovered, stirring very gently until the relish has thickened and the berries are slightly translucent and begin to burst, about 5 to 7 minutes (some will burst completely and some will remain slightly whole). Skim off any foam. Remove from heat and stir in the orange zest and spices. Gently stir in nuts and raisins. Refrigerate until ready to use. Lightly drizzle with aged balsamic just before serving. Serve hot or cold.

Yield: about 1½ quarts

For a tarter relish, reduce the sugar by ½ cup.

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