We Trace Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish Back To Its Horseradishy Roots This pandemic year, we need traditions more than ever, so we travel back to 1961, when Susan Stamberg first tasted her mother-in-law's now (in)famous, Pepto Bismol pink cranberry relish.

We Trace Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish Back To Its Horseradishy Roots

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Thanksgiving is going to be different this year. We know that - empty chairs at some tables, distancing, masks, a lot of traditions broken. But there is one thing listeners can count on just before the holiday. Yep, it's time. Here's NPR special correspondent Susan Stamberg.

SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: Which is not to say I'm not thinking about the pandemic and our health. Mr. Trump considered injecting disinfectant. I have a different suggestion. Absolutely no reason to think it would work on COVID, but it could clear the sinuses. And it's certainly more palatable and dazzling to look at. A reliable source in Pennsylvania, which went for Biden, by the way, provides help.

DAVE DALTRY: Hi, Susan. It's Dave Daltry. And I'm the regional sales manager for Kelchner Products. And I'm calling you from Allentown, Pa.

STAMBERG: Daltry's worked there for almost 40 years. Preston Kelchner started the business in 1938 on his family farm.

DALTRY: Back when I started, we had four ladies peeling the roots with potato peelers.

STAMBERG: What roots?

DALTRY: The horseradish roots.

STAMBERG: Oh, really? Now Kelchner makes lots of sauces - Sriracha, chili, cocktail sauce.

DALTRY: Which is the No. 1 selling refrigerator cocktail sauce in the United States.

STAMBERG: But my favorite and their very first product...

DALTRY: Our horseradish. We sold in a course of 52 weeks, 1,098,573 jars of horseradish. That's a lot of horseradish.

STAMBERG: (Laughter) Oh, gosh. Wouldn't you know I'd get a frog in my throat just at the mere mention of horseradish. Hold on.

DALTRY: (Laughter).

STAMBERG: (Clearing throat). OK, here comes the big reveal.

Well, let me tell you, Dave, why I got in touch with you.

I explain I've had a jar of Kelchner's in my fridge for years - it holds its strength - and just noticed this year that it's made in Allentown, Pa., which is where I first tasted what has become a staple of the NPR radio Thanksgiving diet, my late mother-in-law, Marjorie Stamberg, aka Mama Stamberg's recipe for cranberry relish. I tell Dave the ingredients.


DALTRY: Cranberry.

STAMBERG: Dave helps.


DALTRY: Sugar.

STAMBERG: So you're sounding interested.

DALTRY: (Laughter) I am.

STAMBERG: Sour cream, onion. And now you take a guess.

DALTRY: Horseradish. Great recipe. We'll have to try it.

STAMBERG: Dave obviously has a discerning palate. Of course, I didn't tell him that after you put together all those ingredients - recipe is at npr.org - it is the color of Pepto Bismol, a downer for some narrow-minded listeners. But it's delicious, as I proclaimed on that very first tasting at that Allentown, Pa., table on Thanksgiving 1961, when Louis Stamberg brought me home for the holiday to be inspected by my - wait for it - in-laws to be.

DALTRY: I love this.

STAMBERG: My story reminds Dave of something Kelchner's owner Eric Rygg always says at sales meetings.

DALTRY: We're the brand of horseradish has been passed across the table, just as you're sharing, and down through the generations.

STAMBERG: I love that because that's exactly what I've been doing and what she did when she first served it on her table all those years ago.

DALTRY: That's very sweet. That's very nice.

STAMBERG: Terrific. You know, we don't have so many traditions now. And this is one of them, on your part and on mine. So, Dave Daltry, thank you so much for the Allentown memory. Thanks for the horseradish. Best Thanksgiving wishes to you and yours and to all of our listeners.

DALTRY: The best to you. Be safe. Be careful to you and all the NPR listeners.

STAMBERG: Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. I'm Susan Stamberg, NPR News.


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