Susan Stamberg, Fans Dish About Cranberry Relish

Cooks Share Their Memories and Variations of Classic Recipe

Steve Inskeep eating cranberry relish

Steve Inskeep, weekend host of All Things Considered, samples Stamberg's relish recipe Dan Mitchell, NPR Online hide caption

itoggle caption Dan Mitchell, NPR Online
Joel Bottem finds onion for relish in Scotland market

Joel Bottem (with son Ryan, 14 months, in baby carrier) holds the onion he found in a Dalry, Scotland, market and used to make the Stamberg relish. Siobhan Bottem hide caption

itoggle caption Siobhan Bottem

The Relish Recipe

Here, with Susan Stamberg's footnotes, is the recipe she reads on the air every year.

Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish

2 cups whole raw cranberries, washed

1 small onion

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons horseradish from a jar ("red is a bit milder than white")

Grind the raw berries and onion together. ("I use an old-fashioned meat grinder," says Stamberg. "I'm sure there's a setting on the food processor that will give you a chunky grind -- not a puree.")

Add everything else and mix.

Put in a plastic container and freeze.

Early Thanksgiving morning, move it from freezer to refrigerator compartment to thaw. ("It should still have some little icy slivers left.")

The relish will be thick, creamy, and shocking pink. ("OK, Pepto Bismol pink. It has a tangy taste that cuts through and perks up the turkey and gravy. It’s also good on next-day turkey sandwiches, and with roast beef.")

Makes 1-1/2 pints.

Every Thanksgiving season, NPR's Susan Stamberg shares her classic family recipe for cranberry relish. And every year, countless NPR fans make the recipe their own — adding it to their family tables and traditions, and serving it up with their own variations.

This year, Special Correspondent Stamberg shares the recipe with NPR's Steve Inskeep, weekend host of All Things Considered; and some relish fans share their own relish rituals, reviews and serving suggestions.

Here are some of Stamberg's favorites from the emails listeners sent.

From Joel Bottem of Kent, WA:

I am a relative newcomer to NPR, have only been listening for about 6 1/2 years. I remember the first time I heard Susan Stamberg mention her mother-in-law's recipe for cranberry relish, and I let it go in one ear, and out the other.

A year later, after about the third time hearing it (and the story of how popular it has been over the years), I decided I needed to try it. It was simple and fast to make, and it was a tremendous hit with my dinner guests. My wife and I had three holiday dinners that year, and made the relish for every one.

The following year, I made the relish and took it to work, to let co-workers try it at our company banquet. Again, it was a great hit.

Last year for Christmas, my wife and I made our way to Scotland, to visit her mother for the holidays. The day before Christmas, I realized it wouldn't be the same without sharing Susan's mother-in-law's recipe.

So off we go, my wife and I, in to town to shop for the ingredients. It didn't take long, shopping, to remember a little of this nation's history. Cranberries are an American Thing, "one of only three fruits native to America" according to www.cranberrycreations.com. We looked in four different stores before finding cranberries in Marks and Spencer, and we paid a premium. The sour cream was also a challenge — sour cream is almost as unheard of in Scotland. We ended up using plain yogurt as a substitute!

The next hurdle was a food processor. My mother-in-law doesn't use on. In fact, she doesn't own one! No blender, either. Well, I came too far to give up. I started chopping by hand, these little individual berries... and had about a tablespoon's worth chopped, when I was considering buying a blender for a Christmas present!

Instead, I tried cooking the cranberries to soften them up. I had quite a mess in the pan going, but kept moving ahead. I think they cooked about 15 minutes, before I added them to the rest of the ingredients.

I mixed everything well, chilled as required, and the relish was a hit! It tasted nearly the same, but considering the work going into the dish, I consider it was a labor of love.

From Doris Roland of Hampton, VA:

I made Susan's Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish last year and there ought to be a law against this stuff, yuck!!!! I couldn't get my family to get within 10 feet of the dish and their respect for me went down another notch or two as far as listening to suggestions from the radio (being open minded).

This is a very expensive waste — but it does get you press.

From Sandi Smith of Palmyra, PA:

My husband and I have combined our traditions of Hanukkah, Thanksgiving and Christmas. One of our favorites is to have all the family here for a Hanukkah latke meal. To make the meal more balanced, I usually roast a turkey. We have turkey, gravy, latkes and Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish. My husband's favorite way to eat his latkes is to pile them high with cranberry relish and top with gravy. I also do not ever show up at my in-laws' on Thanksgiving Day without the now-requisite bowl of Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish. In fact, my niece and nephew have been know to call a few days ahead of time to make certain that I was making it!

We can't thank Mrs. Stamberg enough for this wonderful addition to our holiday table!

From Marzi Pecen of Dallas, TX:

For more years than I can remember, Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish Recipe has been one of my Thanksgiving traditions. Not making it, but listening to how Ms. Stamberg gets it onto the show every year. One of my friends, who shares this habit, tells me that he listens every year just to see if the recipe will change and holds fast to the belief that this is all just an elaborate hoax cooked up by NPR, Ms. Stamberg and Ocean Spray because he believes that no one could possibly eat the relish.

I do, and I fix the relish every year. While it does grace my table every year, the real pleasure of this recipe comes from the fact that it must be made with fresh cranberries and can only be made when they are in season. The first fresh cranberry that shows up at my local market prompts me to call family and friends to announce the arrival of "relish season." In addition to the batch for Thanksgiving dinner, I whip up a couple batches (OK, I confess, I make several batches), carefully fill ice cube trays with the relish, and freeze it. Later, I transfer the cubes of delight to freezer bags and containers so that I easily grab one or two, defrost them and slather the pastel goo onto eagerly awaiting roast beef sandwiches year around.

From Deborah Stockton of Charlottesville, VA:

The other day I sent an e-mail to my friend Kathryn, who has a Jersey cow, and said, "It's cranberry season again. Can you please make me a bunch of sour cream?" Ever since I told her of Susan Stamberg's mother-in-law's delicious cranberry relish recipe, she has been making sour cream from fresh Jersey cow cream, for both of us to use. The relish is delicious even if one is forced to use store-bought sour cream (poor dears), but it is sublime when made with pasture-fed Jersey cream, freshly cultured into sour cream. Aaaahhhhhhhh. Thank you Susan Stamberg, thank you Chrissie (the cow)!!

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