You cannot believe how excited I was this past week when I discovered a neat trick to solve a sticky, messy job. It has always been my job to make the cranberry relish for family dinners. We do not limit our eating to Thanksgiving, but enjoy the condiment frequently with poultry and ham throughout the year.
The original recipe for cranberry relish came from my grandmother so, of course, I make it just she did. First I grind the cranberries in one of those old-fashioned meat grinders. I always secure the claw to a wooden chair padded with potholders. As I add the cranberries juice builds up in the bowl. As I gradually add the oranges, the juice spills over unto the floor. When the grinding is complete I have a sticky, messy floor to clean up.
One year I decided to try using my blender to grind the fruit. This works, but it is a very slow process since the top needs to be removed frequently to redistribute the berries. It was not as messy a job, but it took forever just to grind the berries and oranges.
One night just before I fell asleep I had an idea. What if I tried grinding the berries the way I grate cabbage in the blender? That process is done by covering the cabbage with water and draining the whole thing. When I was ready to make the cranberry relish I put a few berries into the blender with some water. It worked perfectly. The process was the same for the oranges and the apples. I have changed the original recipe to include apples because I always have some of them. The packages of cranberries are no longer a pound so I had to make up the difference some way.
I was very happy with my relish and so was the family. I actually made a double batch so that we would have enough. I will no longer dread the process of making the cranberry relish. When it is time to make the relish for Christmas I will do it the new way!
One of the first things I think about when I think about Christmas is the food. The spread has changed throughout the years, but the family always gets together and we always eat.
When I was quite young I used to go to my great-grandfather's house for dinner. I never knew this great-grandmother because she died one Christmas Eve when my mother was a teenager. I do have her molasses cookie recipe though. That is the one I use to make gingerbread men.
My great aunt, Marnie, and another lady, Tena, who lived with them did the cooking. I remember the huge wood/gas stove with the warming oven in the kitchen. In my day they had a refrigerator in the kitchen, but an ice box sat in the back room. I do remember the ice man coming with chunks of ice for it.
I remember the dining room table stretched out as far as it would go. I was the first of the great-grandchildren. There was a special little apron, just for me, in the buffet.
I remember the towel rack in the kitchen with the continuous towel. The bar hung against the wall and you moved the towel a little when you needed a dry space. I also remember the drying rack that hung above the cellar door. Although it folded down out of the way, it was seldom down because something was always drying on it. I actually have the drying rack. I hope to hang it in my craft room to use for drying things.
When Great-Grandpa was too old to host the holiday, my grandmother took over. By then our family had grown so we had a house full with just our family and my great-grandfather's household. Grandma's house had a small dining room separated from the living room by bookcases. The only time we used the dining room was during the holidays. Eventually grandpa converted the space to one large room. He moved the book cases/china cabinets to the end of the room. I got to haul out the candy dishes and pickle dishes when we were going to entertain.
When grandma no longer felt able to make the large meal my aunt Mae took over. We all gathered at the house on Liberty Street for our holiday meals. That was convenient for them because my uncle, the police chief, always gave his men off for the holiday making that shift his responsibility. It was easy for him to just drive home to be able to eat.
My marriage brought changes. Since farm responsibilities kept us home at least part of the day, we celebrated with his family. We all gathered at the farm early in the afternoon to enjoy our holiday feast. This family was of Swedish descent so there were traditional Swedish foods. Toward evening the men slipped into barn clothes to go feed the animals. After a pick-me-up supper they went to the barn to milk cows.
Holiday meals are memorable. I can picture some of these times without the aid of photographs. I think of the fun we had playing games while the men did chores. We laughed a lot. Laughter is good for the soul. After the men came back in we had a snack before everyone left for home.
I really do not remember much about the food we ate, but I certainly remember the people and the fun we had. There is a lesson here, folks, do not stress about what you are going to have to eat. The most important part is getting the family together and making memories.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org