(I can’t believe it! Abbie is finally updating her blog!)
I was making raw cranberry salad to take to Thanksgiving dinner. It is so much of a tradition that I don’t think my sister-in-law would let me in the door if I turned up without it. I used my grandmother’s recipe (I’m not sure how old the recipe is, but my mother remembered it from when she was a little girl and she was born in 1920.) I have had to make a few adjustments from the original because sizes of packages of the ingredients keep changing.
I found myself channelling the Pioneer Woman, but I’m not nearly the photographer she is.
Anyway, here’s the recipe.
The Cast of Characters: Unflavored gelatin, cherry jello, sugar, an apple, fresh cranberries (and imagine you see, chopped pecans).
In a large bowl, soften two packets of unflavored gelatin in about 3/8 cup of cold water. Just sprinkle it on the top of the water, don’t bother to stir.
Throw in two 2-cup packages of cherry jello, and a cup of sugar.
Add 4 cups of boiling water to the bowl.
(Where did that color come from? I told you I was a terrible photographer!)
Stir it well until everything is completely dissolved (including the clotted bits of unflavored gelatin). You can tell when it’s done, because it is completely clear, not cloudy. Set the bowl aside in a cool place or in the refrigerator.
Get out your grandmother’s grinder (if you don’t have one handed down from grandmother to mother to you, I feel sorry for you.) There really is no substitute for an old-fashioned grinder for raw cranberry salad. I’ve tried a food processor, and a chopper, and cutting the cranberries by hand, and nothing else gives the right texture like a grinder.
You’ll notice I have it attached to the table with a piece of old newspaper under it. Also it has a chair pulled up under it that’s lined with newspaper, and a large baking dish sitting in the chair, directly under the handle.
This configuration is born of experience and years of back-breaking floor/counter/cabinet door, etc. scrubbing after the juice dripped all over the place. There is really no substitute for this configuration unless you have a dog who loves raw cranberry juice and can be encouraged to help with the clean-up.
Carefully wash and pick over the cranberries. They were in great shape this year, and I only had to throw away about a dozen that had gone soft in the bag. Some years I have had to throw away over a cup full.
Grind the cranberries (I use an old pie pan to catch them.) The grandchildren love doing this, but unfortunately they aren’t around to help this year. Now is when you will appreciate having the drip pan under the handle.
There’s a lot of juice in these little beauties.
Do NOT get excited and take the pan to the sink to empty it yet. When you take the grinder apart, you’ll find there’s lots more juice inside it! Keep the drip pan waiting for that time. I’ve tried to think of some uses for the juice, but it’s pretty tart without a lot of sugar added, and nobody in my house is that fond of cranberry juice anyway. I conned Big Al into drinking some one time, but he didn’t care for it.
Core and chop an apple. I’ve found the best way to do this is to cut the apple in quarters; cut out the core; then cut each wedge into four pieces long-way. Then just cut thin slices crossways. It makes nice little apple wedges that are about the right size and texture for the salad.
If you don’t have some chopped pecans in the freezer (like I do) you’ll need to chop them fairly fine. This is another job the grandchildren really like to do because I prefer broken pecans to chopped pecans, and good, fresh pecan halves are easily broken in half and then broken again two or three times. You’ll need a cup of chopped pecans.
By this time the jello should be cool and starting to thicken (particularly if you had to chop/break your own pecan pieces.) Throw all the ingredients in the bowl of jello juice – ground cranberries, chopped apples, chopped pecans – and mix it around. It should be stiff with fruit and very little evidence of jello. The jello is only there to hold the rest of the ingredients together.
You can now pour it into a mold (I used to have a circular mold similar to a bundt pan, only shallower – but it got sold in the estate sale). You can also mold it in individual ramekins. This year I settled for a store-bought aluminum disposable pan so I don’t have to worry about bringing anything home. I’ve also done it in Christmas tree-shaped cake pans for the Christmas table. This year, I’ll cut it into squares and serve with a dollop of Miracle Whip. When I used the tube pan, I used to put a small glass/jar filled with Miracle Whip in the hole so people could garnish as they pleased.
Stick it in the refrigerator overnight until it is completely set. If you use a mold, unmold it by filling the sink with hot, hot water. Then hold the mold in the water as deep as you can without letting the water get in the salad for about 30 seconds, or until it wiggles when you shake the pan. Place your serving plate over the mold and invert everything together. Lift the mold away and Voila! you have a lovely, bright red congealed salad.