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Spice up your Thanksgiving Dinner with Cranberry Salsa

I was always a fan of the traditional cranberry sauce that we made by the quart to serve the table of extended family and friends for my childhood Thanksgiving dinners.  We could make it ahead and get it ‘checked off the list’ well in advance, leaving Thanksgiving morning for stuffing the turkey, boiling the potatoes, making the stuffing, polishing the silver, making decorative turkey place cards, figuring out where everyone was going to sit, finding and filling the cornucopia centerpiece, and generally getting the table set for upwards of sixteen family members and long-time friends. 

I don’t know whether all those people would have liked this far livelier version of a cranberry accompaniment, but I rather think they wouldn’t have.  Their tastes tended toward far simpler flavors. “Meat-and-potatoes-will-be-just-fine-thank-you-very-much.”  So every year we used the hand grinder to make cranberry sauce with apples, whole oranges, walnuts and plenty of sugar, and we ate it enthusiastically.  It was especially helpful if the turkey was a little dry…everyone at the table thought it was exotic.

Never having eaten this holiday meal at anyone else’s house until I was in my 20’s, I never knew  there was yet another kind of cranberry sauce.  It comes in a can, makes a ‘blop’ sound when you dump it onto the plate and it looks, well, like it came out of a can.  Not being a fan of jellied food (don’t even get me started on aspic) I have never tried it.  Someone must like it, because I see it in the stores every November.

A few years ago, Sarah Leah Chase, well-known island chef and author of many cookbooks, shared this recipe at a talk she presented on cranberries, and my Thanksgiving menu has been transformed forever. Don’t let the non-traditional name stop you from putting it on your traditional Thanksgiving table. The note at the bottom says it will keep for 3 days.  I might still be good after that time, but there is never any left at our house, so I can't tell you for sure. 

Cranberry Salsa
By Sarah Leah Chase

12 ounces fresh cranberries
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1 ½ tablespoons finely grated or minced fresh ginger
1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded, and finely minced (adjust amount to suit your palate)
1 small, crisp apple or pear, peeled, cored, and cut into small dice (optional)
6 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
Pinch of kosher or sea salt
1. Place the cranberries in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Discard any stray stems or mushy berries. Drain the cranberries and place in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse the machine to chop the cranberries, but take care not to pulverize them into a puree. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
2. Toss the cranberries with the sugar and then stir in all of the remaining ingredients. Cover the salsa with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving. The salsa will keep for at least 3 days.

Makes about 2 ½ cups