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On Cooking Southern: Condiments Add Zing to the Thanksgiving Table

Classic fresh cranberry orange relish
Classic fresh cranberry orange relish

SOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK
Turkey: Loving but derogatory term for a person whose behavior or actions fall flat or seem a bit dimwitted.


Thanksgiving is almost upon us. This Southerner, for one, is thrilled. It’s the best holiday of the year.

Thanksgiving carries no mandated psychological or financial baggage. No presents need be bought. No church needs special attendance (other than voluntary). Familial allegiances are encouraged, but may be ducked if desired.

Thanksgiving is what it is… the day an entire nation remembers our heritage and our participation in the greatest political experiment in history. It’s the holiday dedicated to eating and parades and football and giving thanks for being able to stampede the Black Friday Christmas sales.

Thanksgiving has been celebrated in North America since the Pilgrims survived their first harvest. But the holiday dates back even farther — to Francisco de Coronado’s religious thanksgiving mass conducted in 1541 after the Conquistadors safely crossed the high plains of Texas and found plentiful game.

Our Canadian neighbors celebrate Thanksgiving in October. The U.S. Thanksgiving Day celebration was first proclaimed by the Continental Congress and honored by General Washington in 1777, and then proclaimed for the new nation by President Washington in 1789. During the darkest days of the Civil War in 1863, President Lincoln mandated the holiday as the final Thursday in November. President Roosevelt, on the eve of World War II, fixed the holiday in 1939 as the fourth Thursday of November.

People around the nation adhere to family and regional food traditions when celebrating this holiday. For everyone but vegetarians, a turkey should be involved, perhaps in deference to Benjamin Franklin who lobbied unsuccessfully to make it the national bird. There’s even the National Turkey Pardon granted to one live turkey each year by the President.

Most Thanksgiving tables also groan with pumpkin pie and savory sides concocted from greens of various types, legumes, corn and potatoes – both sweet and white. And we concur that the most essential Turkey Day side dish is some type of stuffing made of bread or rice seasoned with assorted herbs and ingredients ranging from celery and onion to oysters or apples and chestnuts. We call it dressing here in the South.

Condiments also are an important component of every Thanksgiving table. Pickles, relishes, preserves, jams and chutneys are a strong presence. Depending on the region, one might find cabbage-based chowchow or cabbage-and-veggie piccalilli, a hot pepper-spiced tomato relish, or pickled okra, green tomatoes, peaches, or carrots. Cucumber pickles are mandatory.

Also mandatory: Cranberry in some form or another. Canned cranberry sauce is always available at the grocery store, but so are fresh cranberries. Nothing tastes more flavorful with sliced roasted turkey than homemade fresh cranberry relish or cooked cranberry sauce.

This week’s recipes include two cranberry variations that take minimal time for preparation and may be frozen. We also have a simple preserve and spicy chutney that make terrific holiday hostess gifts.

What’s the difference between relish and chutney? Chutney means sauce in Hindi, originated in India, and is cooked with vinegar. It is spicier, sweeter and chunkier than relish. Relish is smoother and usually made of fine-chopped raw vegetables. One could also parse the meanings of “salsa” and “compote,” related food condiments. But let’s save those distinctions for another day.


RELISH, CHUTNEY AND PRESERVES SPICE UP TURKEY DAY

cranberry-orange-relish-DSCN2104

CLASSIC FRESH CRANBERRY ORANGE RELISH
In my family we have at least a dozen variations of cranberry relish, sauce and chutney for use during the holidays — some incorporating flavored gelatin and cream cheese. This recipe is the classic, simplest version.

2 or 3 unpeeled Clementine oranges, cut into quarters

12-oz pkg fresh cranberries (about 3 cups), rinsed and dried

3/4 to 1 c white granulated sugar

Grind the cranberries in food processor until evenly chopped but not pureed. Place in a large nonreactive bowl. Repeat process with orange slices. The processor will pulverize them, but continue until the peel has been fine-chopped. Add to the bowl. Cover mixture with sugar and toss to blend. Refrigerate or freeze, covered, until ready to use.

VARIATION: Add chopped roasted pecans, fine-chopped celery, and stir into partially set cherry gelatin. Spread into an oiled baking pan and refrigerate up to three days until ready to use, topped with a dollop of mayonnaise or whipped cream.

cranberrychutney-DSCN2109

CRANBERRY CHUTNEY
This recipe is absolutely delicious with that roasted turkey and cornbread dressing. It’s also fabulous on those leftover turkey sandwiches.

3 Clementine oranges, peeled, chopped

1/4 c orange juice

3 c (12-oz pkg) fresh cranberries, rinsed and dried

1-3/4 to 2 c white granulated sugar

1 large crisp apple (I used a Honeycrisp)

1/2 c golden raisins (or you can use dark raisins in a pinch)

1/4 c fine-chopped pecans or walnuts (I use roasted nuts)

1 T apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp ground ginger spice

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in large saucepan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-lo after 5 minutes and continue simmering until the cranberries burst, about 8 to 12 minutes. Syrup will turn deep cranberry red. Remove from heat and refrigerate or freeze until ready for use.

gingerlime-pearpreserves-DSCN2052

GINGER LIME PEAR PRESERVES
I couldn’t resist making SOMETHING delicious with those 3-lb bags of small Bartlett pears currently on sale at Walmart. Don’t be afraid to make this recipe your first foray into canning and preserving. Or, simply jar the cooked preserves and refrigerate for up to a week. These preserves are delicious with leftover sliced turkey… and divine with homemade biscuits (see http://hottytoddy.com/2014/09/15/on-cooking-southern-celebrate-national-biscuit-month/).

8 c chopped Bartlett pears

Juice of 3 limes

1 fresh lemon, sliced into 6 or 7 thin slices

4 c white granulated sugar

1 T peeled, grated fresh gingerroot

6 or 7 8-oz (half pint) canning jars with new lids and bands

Prepare canning jars by washing and rinsing with soap and hot water. Heat them in a large stockpot of simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Wash lids with warm soapy water and set aside.

Peel, core and fine-chop the pears. Combine in a large stainless saucepan or stockpot with lime juice, lemon slices and gingerroot. Add sugar and stir to mix. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Simmer on a low boil for about 20 minutes. The peaches and syrup will begin to turn golden.

Remove from heat and test for readiness by spooning a bit of syrup onto a plate. If the gel holds its shape when pushed on the plate, it is ready. If the gel appears watery on the plate, return mixture to heat, stirring, for about 5 more minutes. Repeat test.

Remove jars from hot water bath and shake to remove water. Ladle hot preserves mixture into the jars, divvying the lemon slices one to a jar in the middle of the preserves. Fill each jar to 1/4-inch below rim.

Use a clean knife to poke through each jar to remove bubbles. Wipe rims. Center clean lid on each jar and apply band until fit is tight but not too tight.

At this stage, refrigerate for immediate use, or place jars upright, not touching, in boiling water that covers the jars by at least an inch. Cover pot and boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars to a towel-covered surface to cool. The jar lids will pop as the seals set. Check lids for seal after 24 hours (lid should not flex up and down when pressed in center.

peachchutney-DSCN1988

SPICED FRESH PEACH CHUTNEY
Fear not: Frozen, unsweetened peach slices are an excellent substitute for fresh seasonal peaches. The condiment pairs perfectly with ham, tenderloin or pork chops.

1-1/2 c apple cider vinegar

1/2 c light brown sugar

1/4 c white granulated sugar

1/2 c diced red and orange sweet mini-peppers, deseeded

1/2 c diced white onion

1 small jalapeño pepper, deseeded, minced

1/3 c golden raisins

1 T minced garlic

1 T peeled, fine-minced fresh ginger root

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp ground allspice

4 c chopped unsweetened peaches (fresh or thawed from frozen)

Combine vinegar and both sugars in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add peppers, onions, raisins, and spices. Simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes, uncovered. Add the chopped peaches and simmer 5 additional minutes, uncovered. Stirring occasionally. Mash half the peaches in the saucepan to thicken the syrup. Remove from heat and cool. Store in airtight jars in fridge up to four weeks or freeze in small airtight containers.


Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ website and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow HottyToddy.com on Instagram and Twitter @hottytoddynews. Like its Facebook page: If You Love Oxford and Ole Miss…

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