Cranberry Relish: The NPR Recipe That Divides Thanksgiving Tables : The Salt It's the Friday before Thanksgiving, which means it's time for the annual recitation of Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish. Love it or hate it? Listeners weigh in.
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Cranberry Relish: The NPR Recipe That Divides Thanksgiving Tables

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Cranberry Relish: The NPR Recipe That Divides Thanksgiving Tables

Cranberry Relish: The NPR Recipe That Divides Thanksgiving Tables

Cranberry Relish: The NPR Recipe That Divides Thanksgiving Tables

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/666296027/668508633" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish recipe. Ariel Zambelich & Emily Bogle/NPR hide caption

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Ariel Zambelich & Emily Bogle/NPR

Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish recipe.

Ariel Zambelich & Emily Bogle/NPR

For more years than we can count, on this Friday before Thanksgiving NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamberg has presented her mother-in-law's unconventional recipe for cranberry relish — it's tart, time-tested, terrific for some tasters and terrible for others.

The recipe is controversial — especially if you only like sweet cranberry sauce. Mama Stamberg's has the usual cranberries and sugar, but then you tart it up with onion, sour cream and — wait for it — horseradish.

This year, NPR asked listeners for their Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish stories. Lots of responses poured in from all over the country.

In Wauwatosa, Wis., Laura Hopper says it's good on more than turkey. "Need a little zip for your ham sandwich?" she writes. "Bored with meatloaf? Mama Stamberg's to the rescue!"

Then there were the naysayers, like Vicki Ross-Rhoades in northern Minnesota. She wrote that "even my brother Dusty, who generally eats ANYTHING, didn't like it."

And of course, there are always the recipe tinkerers — though few take it as far as David Timothy in Salt Lake City, Utah. He tells us he's made the recipe several times, but with a few "substitutions": Black beans instead of cranberries, chili power instead of sour cream and sugar — "and instead of horseradish, I use hamburger," Timothy says. So has he retained anything of the original recipe? "Yeah," says Timothy, "I still use the onion."

If you want to give that original recipe a go, here it is.


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