Once again the great cranberry debate is underway in our family. Every year it starts before Thanksgiving and continues till the last person leaves the table at Christmas…and sometimes beyond as everyone argues over which kind of cranberry sauce is best with leftovers.
This small red berry has been included in American holiday fare since the first harvest feast in 1621. There were a limited number of native fruits in the new land, and transplanted Europeans were pleased to include cranberries as a side dish with wild turkey, venison and eel.
At least back then nobody bickered about whether canned or fresh is best.
There’s one faction in our family that contends only canned cranberries deserve a place on the festive table. They believe the classic sauce with perfect cylindrical wobbliness is what Grandma served and turkey doesn’t taste like turkey without it.
But wait, it gets worse. The canned crew has a further feud. Some members claim the smooth jelly type is the only way to go. They point to the satisfying “ploosh” as the sauce slides from the can onto the serving plate, and to the lines left by the can that aid in cutting off the perfect sized slice.
The canned whole berry people prefer that style’s lumpy yet gooey texture and its visual effect on a plate next to the turkey and gravy.
I wonder if they argue about stuff like this in Wisconsin, where cranberries are the state fruit. Wisconsin produces more cranberries than anywhere else in the nation and more than half the world’s supply. Fact: Wisconsin cranberry growers annually harvest enough cranberries to supply every man, woman and child in the world with 26 cranberries.
According to fresh sauce advocates in the family, serving canned is a treasonous offence. My mom put out a time-honored heirloom recipe from the back of the Ocean Spray bag. It’s just cranberries, a chopped orange and some sugar. According to my brother, it has the added advantage of being awesome on sandwiches.
In another corner are certain relatives who want to fancy up when it’s their turn to bring the cranberry sauce. They add nuts, fruits and liqueurs, which strikes everyone else as an insult to the whole tradition. If Mother Nature intended for cranberries to taste like peach schnapps and cashews, she would have made them that way.
So we end up having two or three kinds of cranberry sauce on the table. Everyone is happy and we can move on to more important conversation. Like whether or not there should be oysters in the stuffing.