Crazy for Cranberries plus other fun food for you Thanksgiving holiday

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and soon the kitchens will be buzzing with holiday cooking and the smells of Thanksgiving will be wafting through the house

“It’s all about tradition,” says Food/Travel Editor Suzanne Corbett, ” Recreating those tastes that bring back the memories of times past while building new memories for the Thanksgiving yet to come.”

For this reason St. Louis families, and those all across America will be getting out the old recipes– the tried and true favorites. Along with the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes there is always cranberry sauce. Aside from the turkey and some sort of stuffing different families and parts of the country eat different foods such as many have sweet potatoes and some make oyster stuffing

Every year there is the debate about which cranberries to serve at Thanksgiving; some like the whole  cranberries in sauce and others like the gel cranberries from the can. According to Martha Stewart cranberry sauce may– or may not even have been at the first Thanksgiving but probably not in the form we have now.

“It’s debatable whether or not there were cranberries at the first Thanksgiving,” writes Bridget Shirvell on “As sugar wasn’t widely available at the time, it’s doubtful that cranberry sauce as we know it today was served at the dinner. But cranberries may have played some sort of role, as the Wampanoag tribe used the fruit for a variety of things—including dye, medicine, and food.”

Shirvell says if they had cranberries it was not what we have today, that it may have been cranberries mixed with meat. As the years went by cranberries as we know it made into a sauce became more popular.

By the 1860s, cranberry sauce was so ingrained as an American dish, that General Ulysses S. Grant reportedly ordered that cranberries be served to soldiers as part of their Thanksgiving meal. So there you go, the old St. Louis resident  and future U.S. President may have been instrumental in continuing the tradition of cranberries being served for Thanksgiving.

Suzanne Corbett recently did a Cooking School  demonstration with several recipes involving cranberries. While many of the recipes were to go with turkdy, she threw in a delicious fried pork tenderloin for eating after the turkey is gone. The pork tenderloin has a cranberry balsamic sauce on it so it could be used any time. You could use the leftover cranberries from your Thanksgiving meal to make the pork tenderloin for later in the week.

Corbett likes to be creative with her recipes, but she also has some favorites that she uses in other ways.

“I love the chutney because it’s so versatile,” she said. “You can use it in so many ways. As a sandwich spread, a classy side to enhance most any roasted or grilled meat. And it’s a great addition as a choice beyond the jellied cranberry sauce.”

Cranberry Fig Chutney

2 (12-ounce) bags fresh cranberries

3 cups sugar

2 medium oranges, (unpeeled) chopped & seeded

½ finely chopped white onion

½ cup raisins

8 dried figs, chopped

3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard

Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan placed over a medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves then increase heat and cook until cranberries pop, about 10 minutes.  Spoon into jars and refrigerate. Will store for 8 weeks.  Makes about 8 cups.

Fruit chutneys were a popular condiment during the Gilded Age. Served today aa a relish to enhance roasted poultry and pork, a spread for sandwiches, or as a topper for cream cheese.

“Like so many people, I have my Thanksgiving Day menu entrenched in traditions, so I won’t be making all of these recipes,” she said. “However, I will use the chutney as a spread for my leftover turkey sandwiches. Also, the Cranberry Fool Trifle is super for Christmas.”

But why is it called “fool?” Suzanne’s answer is that it is so easy to make, any fool can make it.

Others wonder about the name and there was even an article in the Washington Post about it.

“The closest we come to tracing the fool’s original identity is to link it with its culinary cousin, the trifle, said writer Anne Crutcher, “Next to a proper Anglo-Saxon suet pudding, which is a sort of edible Victoria and Albert Museum, the fool and the trifle are little nothings, mere frivolities….After all, what is either of them but mashed or pure’ed fruit combined with whipped cream?”

And that makes Corbett’s explanation the simplest.

Cranberry Fool / Cranberry Foolish Trifle

2 cups cranberries

1 cup sugar

2 cups heavy cream

pound cake

brandy to taste, optional

Place cranberries and sugar in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Cook until berries pop and mixture has thickened. Crush berries against the side of the pan with the back of a spoon and remove from heat. Cool completely.

In a chilled bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the cranberries. Chill and serve alone as a fool.

So the Cranberry Fool recipe can be an ingredient used to make a trifle

To assemble a trifle: Use a large bowl or individual serving glasses. Place a layer if cake and sprinkle with brandy. Add half the cranberry mixture.

Repeat layers, top with extra whipped cream and garnish with sugared cranberries.

Nantucket Cranberry Tart 

1 package (12 ounces) fresh/frozen cranberries

1 cup sugar

½ cup sliced almonds

2 eggs, room

¾ cups butter, melted

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar

Preheat to 325 degrees.  In a small  bowl, combine cranberries, ½ cup sugar, and almonds. In another bowl beat the eggs, butter, extract, and remaining sugar. Beat in flour – batter will be thick. Spread evenly over the cranberries that have been placed in a 11-inch fluted tart pan with a removeable bottom. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 40 -45 minutes or until it tests done when a toothpick is inserted in center of tart and comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Makes 10-12 servings.

How About a  Non-Turkey Entry for the Holidays?

Pork Tenderloin Schnitzel with Cranberry Balsamic Sauce

1 pork tenderloin, sliced into thin medallions.

Egg wash (I egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water)


Panko crumbs

Oil for frying

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 sprigs of rosemary leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 can whole berry cranberry sauce

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Dust pork with flour. Dip each pork medallion into egg wash, then place in panko crumbs. Allow breading to dry for a few minutes.  Sauté  pork until golden brown on each side over a medium heat. Drain on paper towels.  Wipe out skillet used to sauté pork. Add a tablespoon of oil or butter. Heat over a medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until it begins to caramelize, then add rosemary leaves. Season with salt and pepper.  Add the broth, cranberry sauce and vinegar and whisk until cranberry sauce melts and the sauce thickens. Adjust thickening if needed with the addition of a little cornstarch.  Serves 2 -3

Suzanne Corbett loves to cook but she remind us not to over work ouselves in getting ready for the holidays

“The day may seem to be all about the turkey and trimmings but don’t forget the reason why you’re cooking: To enjoy and gather with the ones you love and those friendships that make the holiday a true blessing.”

Eating like a Pilgrim

By Suzanne Corbett, Food/Travel Editor,

Eating Thanksgiving like a pilgrim wouldn’t be welcomed at most tables today. Most of the menu wouldn’t be acceptable. No cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream.

As Kathleen Wall, who oversees Plimoth Plantation’s colonial foodways program says, “Visitors are surprised to learn that the 1621 Thanksgiving doesn’t resemble the holiday that’s celebrated today. In 1621 Thanksgiving was a harvest festival was held in the early fall, probably October. It was a celebration of economics – having enough to eat, a serious concern for the settlers who nearly starved to death during their first year. In contrast, a day of thanksgiving was a religious day of prayer and fasting.”

In 17th century Plimoth Thanksgiving was a broken tradition, meaning it wasn’t celebrated as an annual event. “ Thanksgiving is just another Thursday in November for us here,” said Wall. “That’s because in our 1627 interpretation we don’t celebrate the harvest because it wasn’t held that year.”

It’s difficult to separate fact from romanticized folklore because historians don’t know much about that first Thanksgiving aside from few a few written sentences. What they do know is it was a harvest festival that lasted three days and was attended by an estimated 90 native people and 50 colonists. The centerpiece meat of the fest was dear; five deer.

“The deer were brought as gifts to the colony,’ said Wall. “ We can assume there was maze (corn), beans and squash along with lobsters, clams, roasted ducks, geese and turkey, which could have been served with an onion sauce.”

Any hunter will know the pilgrim’s turkey didn’t look anything like those big breasted birds served today. New England wild turkeys then and now are downright scrawny, which according to early seventeenth century culinary practices were boiled or baked into pies similar to a pot pie.  Cranberries would more likely be found folded into a stuffing for meat than sugared and cooked into a relish since sugar was an expensive and in short supply.

Other items missing from the 1621 menu were whipped potatoes, apple pies and candied sweet potatoes. None of these crops had yet to be established in Pilmoth.  Pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream wasn’t a staple of the menu until the mid 1800s.  Instead, pumpkin was stewed or baked in its shell. Pilmoth does interpret a 1653 recipe for a pumpkin pie that calls for a dozen eggs and that resembles more of a frittata than what one would think of as traditional pumpkin pie.

Beyond the pie and turkey, setting the seventeenth century English table would be draped with a linen tablecloth. It was a major faux pas to eat off bare wood. Spoons and knifes were the eating utensils. When the saltcellar and bread were placed on the table it signaled the beginning of the meal. When they were removed the meal was officially over.

Plimoth Plantation recreates both a Pilgrim Thanksgiving and a Victorian Thanksgiving for quests to experience. The 1621 Harvest Feast is featured at the Plantation during October and November. Plimoth recreates an 1863 Victorian Thanksgiving, which transports guests back to the time of Lincoln who officially proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday.  The 1863 menu features the traditional items of oysters, roast turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry relish and pumpkin pie.

What makes eating Thanksgiving dinner memorable at the Plimoth Plantation is the location itself. For those wanting to add a little historical twist to this year’s Thanksgiving menu try the recipe for Stewed Pumpkin or Spinach Salad. Each features the original recipe text and spellings   along with the updated version courtesy

The Following recipe is a reprint of the original recipe 1672 followed by the updated version from Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History from Pilgrim to Pumpkin Pie. Kathleen Curtin, Sandra L. Oliver and Plimoth Plantation.

Stewed Pumpkin

To stew pompions:

The Housewives manner is to slice [the Pompions] when ripe, and cut them into dice, and so fill a pot with them of two or three Gallons, and stew them upon a gentle fire a whole day, and as they sink, they fill again with fresh Pompions, not putting any liquor to them; and when it is stew’d enough, it will look like bak’d Apples; this they Dish, putting Butter to it, and a little Vinegar, (with some Spice, as Ginger, &c.) which makes it tart like an Apple, and so serve it up to be eaten with Fish or Flesh: –  John Josselyn, New England Rarities Discovered 1672

4 cups cooked and mashed pumpkin or other squash

4 tablespoons butter

1-2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1-2 teaspoons ground ginger (or any combination of nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and pepper to taste)

1 teaspoon salt

Place the pumpkin, butter, vinegar, ginger, and salt in a saucepan over low heat.  Stir and heat until all the above ingredients are well combined and hot.  Adjust the seasonings to your liking and serve. Serves 8

Spinach Salad

An excellent boiled Sallet.

To make an excellent compound boild Sallat: take of Spinage well washt, two or three handfuls, And put it into faire water, and boile it till it bee exceeding soft, and tender as pap: then put it into a Cullander and draine the water from it, which done, with the backside of your Chopping knife chop it, and bruise it as small as may be: then put it into a Pipkin with a good lump of sweete butter, and boile it over againe: then take a good handful of Currants cleane washt, and put to it, and stirre them well together; then put to as much Vinegar as will make it reasonable tart, and then with Sugar season it according to the taste of the Master of the house, and so serve it upon sippets.  –   Gervase Markham, The English Housewife 1623

 3 pounds fresh spinach, well washed, stemmed and chopped (do no dry)

3 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup dried currants or raisins

2 tablespoons cider vinegar or red wine vinegar

1-2 tablespoons sugar

Salt to taste

Place the washed spinach in a large pot over medium heat, moving it about until it is wilted and the considerably reduced in volume, 3 to 5 minutes.  Press the spinach against the side of the pot, then drain off any excess water from the bottom, and add the butter, currants, vinegar, sugar, and salt.  Continue cooking briefly, tossing the spinach to coat it with the sauce.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl to serve.  Serves 6

Looking for a recipe that is more traditional for the 21st century’s Thanksgiving table? Then try the recipe  that defined pumpkin pie in 20th century. The 1929 recipe found on the Libby’s pumpkin can.

Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 large eggs

1 can (15 ounces) Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin

1 can (12 fluid ounces) evaporated milk

1 unbaked 9-inch  deep-dish pie shell

Whipped cream

Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

Pour into pie shell. Bake in a preheated 425°F oven 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350°F; bake 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving. Makes one pie, serving 8.

Photo Credits from Pilgrim article: Courtesy of Plimoth Patuxet Museums and Libby 







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