Thanksgiving is next week already. How did that ever happen? Jamie and I usually spend the holiday with a dear friend in Connecticut who is 101 years old this year and still likes to do the dinner with — increasingly — help from me. We don’t fuss much at all. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, creamed curried onions, cranberry sauce, turnips and nothing green. Three kinds of pie. We keep it simple because we like visiting with friends and relatives, and because we use good ingredients and nothing much from packages. It all tastes pretty darn good without us getting our knickers in a twist. When you are 101, you don’t turn the kitchen upside down with fancy side dishes calling for a list of ingredients as long as your arm.
I like plain homemade cranberry sauce just fine — cranberries and sugar, that’s all. I also like cranberry chutney, and someday when we don’t have our dear friend to spend the holiday with anymore, I might just put cranberry chutney on the table, too. When I do I will use this recipe from two other beloved friends because I can make it ahead, and even can it.
My neighbor Ruth Hartley passed along to me this recipe she got from a mutual friend, Susan Hess, who lived with us awhile on the island but has since moved off to Georgetown. Sue had taken it to bridge club and regaled the group with stories from her grandmother who made the chutney in the first place. Ruth talked about the smell of the chutney cooking, “So now when the smell is wafting through the house on those anticipatory days when we have memories of past Thanksgivings and hopes for the future, it is a lot more than the cranberry!”
Isn’t that the truth. Smell prompts some of our most powerful memories, and the combination of turkey, pies warming, and now cranberry chutney, ought to let loose a whole floodgate of recollections.
This is a wonderful chutney, and if you like more bite, you can always add a little red pepper or cayenne to it. In fact, I was testing another recipe at the same time and dumped in another quarter-teaspoon of cloves by accident but no matter. As you cook it, watch to see if it tries to stick, and if it does, add a splash of water so you can cook it long enough for the apples to be tender.
The chutney will be perfect on your turkey sandwiches, or on next week’s chicken, or as Susan suggested, spread on top of cream cheese to use as an appetizer. Make a batch now from fresh cranberries to have all winter.
Susan Hess’ Grandmother’s Cranberry Chutney
Yields 5 cups.
16 ounces fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup golden raisins
¾ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon allspice
1 cup water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
Combine cranberries, sugar, raisins, spices and water in an uncovered saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until the cranberries pop. Reduce the heat, and stir in apples, onion and celery. Simmer uncovered 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding just a little water if needed to prevent sticking. Chill or put into canning jars and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Will keep in the fridge up to two weeks.
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