Thanksgiving Treat: Special Cranberry Relish

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The Recipe's Origins

As Susan Stamberg has noted, her mother-in-law got the recipe from a 1959 New York Times clipping of Craig Claiborne's recipe for cranberry relish. In 1993, Claiborne told Stamberg: "Susan, I am simply delighted. We have gotten more mileage, you and I, out of that recipe than almost anything I've printed."

Every year as Thanksgiving approaches, friends ask NPR's Susan Stamberg for her mother-in-law's recipe for cranberry relish. The side dish combines the sweet tartness of cranberries with soothing sour cream — and gets a kick from a little horseradish.

"It sounds terrible but tastes terrific," Stamberg says of the dish — which, if made properly, takes on what many people have called a "Pepto-Bismol-pink" hue.

Despite the color, the relish should remain chunky — not pureed, Stamberg says. To help the flavors meld together, cooks should place the dish in the freezer overnight and remove it early Thanksgiving morning.

Even if it's prepared perfectly, this version of cranberry relish may not suit everyone's taste. "I've developed a very thick skin about this recipe over the years," Stamberg says.

Here's the cranberry relish recipe, along with a bonus recipe for another Stamberg favorite: garlicky cranberry chutney.

Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish

This relish 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.


  • 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.")

Makes 1 1/2 pints.

Garlicky Cranberry Chutney

Susan Stamberg calls this recipe "my truly favorite cranberry side dish." It's from Madhur Jaffrey's cookbook East/West Menus for Family and Friends (Harper & Row, 1987).


  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1-pound can cranberry sauce with berries
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or less)
  • ground black pepper


Cut ginger into paper-thin slices, stack them together and cut into really thin slivers.

Combine ginger, garlic, vinegar, sugar and cayenne in a small pot. Bring to a simmer, simmer on medium flame about 15 minutes or until there are about four tablespoons of liquid left.

Add can of cranberry sauce, salt and pepper. Mix and bring to a simmer. Lumps are OK. Simmer on a gentle heat for about 10 minutes.

Cool, store and refrigerate. ("It will keep for several days, if you don't finish it all after first taste!")

Correction Nov. 21, 2008

In some audio versions of this story, we failed to include the amount of sour cream — 3/4 cup — to be added.



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