Over the years my Mom's Thanksgiving cranberry salad has become the stuff of legend. There have been countless times where I have been asked "did your Mom bring her cranberry salad" or "do you have the recipe she uses?"
For me, it has just been a Thanksgiving staple that I'm used to, like her buckeyes at Christmas, so it didn't have the aura that many in the family experienced, so I guess I have taken it for granted. I was asked about it again recently, so I decided to investigate.
I asked Mom about the recipe and it originated with my late Grandma. After she passed away, my Mom picked up the tradition of making it for Thanksgiving. It was a way of bringing her presence to Thanksgiving each year and passing her legacy on to new generations of the family.
Grandma passed away in 1978 when Mom was just 26. Despite her young age, she had helped her prepare for Thanksgiving several times and had learned the recipe. They didn't have a food processor at that time and used a meat grinder to process the fruits. According to Mom, the grinder would cause the cranberries to burst and splatter red juice everywhere. I can only imagine that this made the kitchen counter look like a murder scene and any apron or shirt look like a Thanksgiving tie-die.
The recipe is easy - especially with the help of a food processor - and requires no real cooking. Just heating water.
After making it myself and putting it under the microscope, I had a hard time calling it just "Cranberry Salad." Cranberries are the main ingredient, but its flavor is a medley of fruits. So I modified the name a bit to include "Fruit."
It's an All-star Thanksgiving treat, and probably the easiest make ahead dish in any holiday spread. It can be topped with whip cream for extra decadence or easily modified to suit a particular flavor profile.
For me, this is a chance to pass on what my Mom started over 40 years ago when we had to begin celebrating Thanksgiving without Grandma.
Not only is this a delicious addition to a Thanksgiving spread but it is also a memorial.
Grandma passed when I was only 5, but I still have fond memories of her, and although I don't remember her serving this salad specifically, I do remember her putting a warm pancake on my ear when I had an earache. I can't remember if it worked, but it probably gave her a break from the hysterical fit I was likely throwing at the time.
Eat well, cook often ...
12 oz. Fresh Cranberries
2 1/2 C Hot Water
1 lg. box (6 oz) Strawberry Jello
1/2 C Sugar
1 1/2 C Walnuts
1 can (20 oz) Crushed Pineapple
1 Apple peeled, cored, chopped
1 Orange peeled
Zest of Orange
Process Fruit; Dissolve Jello Mix and Sugar
In a food processor, pulse cranberries, apple, orange and orange zest until finely chopped and thoroughly mixed. In a large serving bowl stir together hot water, strawberry jello mix and sugar until completely dissolved.
Mix Together; Refrigerate and Serve
Stir processed fruit mixture, pineapple and walnuts into jello liquid until well combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Just before meal, remove from refrigerator, uncover and serve.