Are they really necessary? Some say yes. At my very southern family Thanksgiving feasts I don't remember ever not having cranberries. From a can, sliced and artfully arranged on a platter. I'd like to wean you from cranberries, even though I love 'em. Here are a couple recipes with them - and one lovely, traditional Southern fruit substitute.
Whole Cranberry Sauce - the Real Deal
Seriously, you can make this stuff! It's much better than canned, and it has the addition of one local ingredient: the pecan. Make it the night before to give it a chance to cool and you one less thing to do on Thanksgiving morn.
One pound bag of fresh cranberries
One bottle maple syrup
One cup chopped pecans
Wash cranberries and place in large pot, cover with maple syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring regularly. Cranberries will begin to pop open. You can help the process along by crushing some with the spoon. Add chopped pecans and put in lovely dish. Refrigerate till ready to serve.
Cranberry Orange Relish
This traditional recipe introduces our most famous regional fruit, and it's uncooked. Another step out of the Cranberry Kingdom.
One pound bag of cranberries
Three oranges, unpeeled, without seeds
Sugar to taste
You have to use a food processor (or Champion Juicer) for this one. Process cranberries and oranges (peel and all). Add sugar - et voila!
The Realest Deal - Southern Ambrosia aka Fruit Salad
Now we're talking. This is THE fruit concoction for the holidays. I remember as a little girl the delicious smell of a pile of peeled oranges and seeing my dad (who wasn't much for food preparation) stationed at the table, bent over a large pot, carefully removing the white orange pith with his pocket knife. Ambrosia was his job. He did it very well.
Juicy naval oranges (or any sweet orange), peeled, seeds removed, cut into spoon-sized chunks
A few bananas, sliced and a little flaked coconut (not local, but very traditional)
As many chopped pecans as possible
Chopped apples, esp. if you are from the part of the upper south that can grow them well
If it seems like it needs it, add a little orange juice (from extra oranges). Serve in a pretty bowl. It's not quite as tangy as cranberry sauce, but it's awfully good.
You can find local (or at least regional) oranges at the farmers markets and Ward's right now. 'Tis the season for pecans too. Save money and buy them in the shell; invite friends and family to contribute to the meal by cracking and picking. While maple syrup definitely comes from afar, organic, dehydrated cane syrup (sugar) can be purchased at Ward's or a health food store.