Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cranberry Traditions

Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving without my grandmother's cranberry salad. Most old recipes for cranberry salad have apples or oranges in addition to the cranberries, but not my grandmother's. It was also made in a particular way that was hard to duplicate. First, you had to crush the fresh cranberries in a food grinder. We had an old cast iron one that you attached to the counter top with a big thumbscrew. It fit on the counter top at 3319 W. 38th St. perfectly.

Jason preparing the cranberries his first Thanksgiving

Mom's Recipe (as it appeared in the Park School 75th Anniversary Cookbook)
1 pt. fresh cranberries
1 15-oz. can crushed pineapple
1 3-oz. cherry Jello
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup pecans
Put cranberries through food grinder. Add 3/4 cup sugar. Dissolve Jello in 1 cup boiling water. Add pineapple, Jello, and nuts to cranberries. Stir. Allow 24 hours to set. Refrigerate.

Eventually after my grandmother's death, that grinder was lost or broken, and for years we had to make do with a layered strawberry salad that was good, but just not the same. I even tried to prepare the cranberries with a food processor, but it didn't crush the berries and release all that wonderful juice.

I was delighted when I found a grinder just like our old one in an antique store. However, the house where I was living didn't have a lip on the counter top to attach the screw mechanism to. I managed to crush the cranberries by attaching the grinder to an old desk and made a huge juicy, purply mess. Back to the strawberry salad.

Then I found a recipe for Southern-style cranberry salad that substituted 1 can of whole berry cranberry sauce for the fresh cranberries. Why didn't I ever think of that? I had to modify it a little because it had, to us, unnecessarily added mandarin oranges. Here's that modified recipe.

Southern Cranberry Salad
1 pkg. (3 oz.) cherry Jello
1 cup boiling water
1 can (16 oz.) whole berry cranberry sauce
1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped pecans
Place the gelatin in a large heatproof glass bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Stir the gelatin with a fork until it has dissolved. Add the cranberry sauce, pineapple, and pecans, and stir until well blended. Cover with plastic wrap or lid. Place the salad in the refrigerator and let it chill at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.

Having not had the real thing in many years, some family members had to be introduced again to my grandmother's wonderful cranberry salad, and others tried it for the first time. Now everybody loves it, especially my daughter-in-law, and it's guaranteed to be the thing I'm requested to bring to Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, I have to make some tonight to take to her grandparents' house for dinner tomorrow. Thank goodness I don't have to use the food grinder!

Happy Thanksgiving!

My grandmother, Aunt Georgia, Aunt Jessie, Big Mom

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