Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish Takes Heat From One Of The Family's Own : The Salt It's the Friday before Thanksgiving. That means it's time for NPR's Susan Stamberg's traditional recipe that "sounds terrible but tastes terrific" — though her granddaughter begs to differ.

Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish Takes Heat From One Of The Family's Own

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All right, it is that time of year. On the Friday before Thanksgiving, for the last 46 years, NPR's special correspondent Susan Stamberg has shared with listeners a family recipe. She says it sounds terrible but tastes terrific. And you should be the judge. Here comes Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish.

SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: What can I say? I believe in tradition. I also believe in my late mother-in-law's recipe - tart, tangy, icy and, yes, the color of Pepto-Bismol. It's a lovely, shocking pink. Each year, I'm hard-pressed to come up with a new way to present it. This time, I got help from Justine Kenin, a producer on All Things Considered.

JUSTINE KENIN, BYLINE: So Susan, have you and Josh ever made it together?

S. STAMBERG: Josh is my son - Josh Stamberg, the actor.

KENIN: Have you and Josh and his daughter ever made it together? Surely, it's time for your granddaughter to know how to make it.

S. STAMBERG: So you can blame Justine for what follows.

JOSH STAMBERG: Come on, river tooney. Come on.

VIVIAN STAMBERG: I just saw a (unintelligible).


S. STAMBERG: Vivian Stamberg was 8 when we recorded this right before Thanksgiving last year. She was just dying to get started.

J. STAMBERG: Come on, Viv.

S. STAMBERG: She moseyed into the kitchen. We were gathering equipment.

We got to get out the meat grinder.

VIVIAN: This one?

J. STAMBERG: Anything that you see down there from 1910 or earlier, we need. That's it. Perfect.

S. STAMBERG: Continuing a tradition her dad created at her age, Viv opens the back door and makes an announcement to the backyard.

VIVIAN: (Yelling) We're making the cranberries.

S. STAMBERG: The ingredients are laid out. Raw cranberries - you wash them first - a small onion. Put them into the funnel on top of the meat grinder. I have never owned a food processor. Grind the onion and the berries together by cranking the big handle.


S. STAMBERG: It's not working. Instead of a chunky onion and berry pulp, all that comes out is bright red juice - cranberry and onion juice. Vivian insists on tasting it.

VIVIAN: I like it.

S. STAMBERG: Usually, she likes ice cream. We struggle with the grinder. It's not grinding. Blade must be wrong.

VIVIAN: (Yelling) We had a problem with the cranberries.


S. STAMBERG: Blade flipped, the grind begins.

Some more cranberries.

J. STAMBERG: OK. That's good.

S. STAMBERG: Ow, wait - my thumb (laughter). You cut my pinky.

It's going beautifully.

So we just have a few berries that didn't...


S. STAMBERG: The finally ground-up stuff goes into a bowl, then goes everything else. A half a cup of sugar...

VIVIAN: Sour cream.

S. STAMBERG: Three quarters of a cup. Oh, now, it's all turning pink. And the last extremely controversial ingredient...

J. STAMBERG: Wow. That looks really old, that horseradish. How old is that?

S. STAMBERG: Two tablespoons of horseradish.

Oh, about 12 years.

J. STAMBERG: Perfect.

S. STAMBERG: I mean, how much call is there for horseradish in the course of a year? You stir it all together.

VIVIAN: I'm kind of scared to taste it.

J. STAMBERG: Here we go. Ready, Viv?

S. STAMBERG: (Laughter) Many people feel that way, Viv.

Josh tries it.

J. STAMBERG: So close.

S. STAMBERG: But he thinks it's too sweet. We put in more horseradish.

J. STAMBERG: Still too sweet.

S. STAMBERG: Oh, it is so sweet.

More and more.

Needs more. You'll do it? More horseradish.

And more. Pretty much, the whole jar is in by now. The color's right - nice consistency, chunks of berries and onions. But it's not tangy. No bite. Someone - me - leaves, buys a new jar of horseradish, mixes in a fresh tablespoon or two. Voila. Just right. Josh and I are relieved, but it's not unanimous.

VIVIAN: I am never tasting that again.

S. STAMBERG: She helps, though - puts it in a container to freeze it. On Thanksgiving morning, I'll move it from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw.

VIVIAN: (Playing piano).

S. STAMBERG: Culinary tasks completed, Miss Vivian Stamberg tries a different art form.

VIVIAN: (Playing piano).

S. STAMBERG: And thus, the grinder has been passed to a new generation. Next year, her little sister Lena may get into the act.

Meantime, happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

I'm Susan Stamberg, NPR News.

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