Thursday, January 5, 2012

Aunt Pam’s Cranberry Pomegranate Relish

This is a little embarrassing to admit, but in my extended family, Thanksgiving is all about the food; or should I say, it’s significantly more about the food than it is about family togetherness. We’re all always together 24/7; we all work together in the family business so we eat lunch together, eat dinner together, go to church together, go to baseball games, hockey games and concerts together and by the end of each work day we are probably a little sick of each other. There’s one think we never get sick of on Thanksgiving though, and that is my Aunt Pam’s Cranberry Pomegranate Relish.

My late Aunt Pam created this recipe many years ago. She would often create recipes and send them into magazines--like Better Homes and Gardens--winning competitions and earning prize money. This recipe has been a huge hit since the day I tried it. Every time I make it, several people want the recipe. It is definitely a family favorite, and it is ALWAYS on the table at our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. We eat it every which way we can and make a ton extra on Thanksgiving eve to last us for the entire following week. I eat it for breakfast, and lunch, and snacks, with turkey, in a turkey sandwich, with salad, with our pies, with cool whip, or whipping cream, on top of cheesecake, with yogurt, and/or cottage cheese or just all by itself.

If I know my Aunt Pam like I think I do, this recipe was developed around the pomegranates. My grandfather had a pomegranate tree in his backyard and they flourished in early November. Aunt Pam was one of the most frugal, resourceful, and creative individuals I have ever known. I have a feeling she wanted to make good use of the pomegranates.

One thing I REALLY love about this recipe is that it sort of tricks your mouth. I am not particularly fond of the hard part of the seed inside the pomegranate aril, nor the seeds inside of the raspberries, but they are masked by the nuts when chopped up really small. Your mouth gets confused and thinks you are eating the little minced nuts.

Try NOT to do this recipe without the nuts. I know some people have nut allergies, but just bring your epi pen, it's worth it...j/k but seriously if anaphylactic shock is not a result from eating nuts then this is the recipe worth eating nuts for. My brother-in-law always comes to Thanksgiving prepared to indulge in this dish. He will rinse his mouth out with baking soda to get the nut allergy itches out of his throat after eating it. I actually started making him a special one with Almonds instead of the walnuts or pecans. He's not as allergic to Almonds for some reason.

There are two versions. One is my Aunt Pam's original version, then following that is my tripled version. The tripled version isn't even enough for my family of pigs. We practically have to triple it twice; plus everyone always wants their own little take-home-dish after; It's sort of like the party favor at the end of Thanksgiving.

My dad’s late cousin Vicki started this tradition. She would always call me the day before Thanksgiving to remind me to make extra relish so she could have her own little container to take home. Then everyone would get all jealous and want their own too. I buy those little glad ware containers and stack them full in the fridge on Thanksgiving eve.

Be prepared to have ugly yellow stained hands for a week from peeling pomegranate seeds. I actually suggest if you’ve had a manicure recently and you don’t want to ruin it, you have a man peel out the pomegranate seeds, unless you want an excuse to go get a manicure. Or if you do it underwater they won’t stain your hands as much. It’s sort of our family tradition that my husband Richard peels all the pomegranate seeds. He sits at the table and does it while watching T.V., it's the one time of year he scores points with me while watching football. Some say to peel the pomegranates under water, and some say to buy them already peeled, but when you have friends with pomegranate trees, it makes sense to use them--not the friends, the pomegranates.

One year I made a mistake and tripled the recipe but didn’t realize that I only had enough raspberries to double the recipe. It was too late though; I had already dissolved the Jello in all the hot water and didn’t want to waste. I figured I could use whatever kind of fruit I felt like using to replace the missing raspberries. I filled in with canned mandarin orange segments. That was the year I shared the relish with my friend Lori. Now, Lori forever prefers this recipe with the oranges. However, that was also the year that my sister-in-law Hope realized she liked it done correctly, the first way she had experienced it, without the oranges. I still get a kick out of that. I’ll eat practically anything so either way is fine with me.

Last year I gave this recipe to a friend of mine. She was a little confused about how to make it and couldn't get a hold of me in time. She thought she needed to follow the instructions on the Jello package for the amount of water it says, plus the water from this recipe. NOOOOOOOO! Don't do that please. Just follow Aunt Pam's recipe.

Pam’s Cranberry Pomegranate Relish

• 6 oz. package raspberry, orange or cran-raspberry Jello
• ¼ cup sugar
• Dissolve above in 2 cups of boiling water
• Add: two 12 oz. packages of sweetened frozen raspberries and stir until thawed
• Add: 1 bag fresh cranberries finely chopped--prepare this ahead, food processor makes this easy
• 1 cup chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds--prepare ahead of time
• Seeds from 1 (large) pomegranate, or 2 small pomegranates--prepare ahead of time

Mix well; refrigerate overnight or several hours in Jello molds. To get the relish out of the Jello molds, still looking pretty, dip the Jello mold in a hot water bath for about 5 - 10 seconds, then flip the whole thing over and let the relish fall out on to the plate. I prefer to use the plastic flexible Jello molds that you can sort of squeeze the suction out of a little to get it to all fall out nicely. This little process makes it easy to travel with, and then you can flip it for the presentation when you get to your location. Also, if you are traveling with it un-refrigerated for some time, you may want to skip the hot water part.