Remembrances of Thanksgivings Past

cranberriesAs I think I’ve mentioned before, on occasion I’ll use this blog to reminisce about the past. With Thanksgiving (for folks in the U.S.) just a few days away, I’ve started pulling out recipes for dishes that are traditional in my family. One of these recipes, Cranberry Salad, has been around so long, I have no idea how it came into the family originally, but I clearly recall my mother making it when I was a child.

Back then, it was quite a chore. First of all, the recipe calls for black walnuts. If you had black walnuts back then, you’d probably cracked them yourself, so they needed to be looked carefully to be sure no hulls lurked among the meat of the nuts. (Invariably, it seemed, at least one hull escaped detection and ended up in someone’s mouth.) Today black walnuts can be purchased in many supermarkets, but it’s still a good idea to look them before adding them to a recipe.

grinderNext was the chore of preparing the cranberries. Since this was well before the days of food processors (or even blenders), Mom used a food grinder. She attached it to the end of the kitchen table and then placed a chair beneath the grinder so she could position a bowl in the chair to catch the juice of the cranberries. I happen to have Mom’s food grinder and thus can share pictures for those who’ve never seen one in person. As you can see, the grinding involved manually turning a long handle. The whole fruit was placed in the large spout at the top grinder-feedand the grinding motion fed it through the end grinder-endwhere it was forced through small holes. Juice ran down the back of the grinder and was collected in the bowl Mom had placed below. One nice thing about this method was that the processed fruit was usually uniform in size, which is not always the case with modern methods.

And speaking of modernizing, I’m sharing the original recipe below, with modern-day changes given in parentheses as needed.


  • 1 pound cranberries (Cranberries are now packaged in 12-ounce bags, so one and a half bags are necessary to achieve the one pound called for in the recipe. I usually wash and look them a couple of times. I then use my food processor to grind them.)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 #2-1/2 size can of crushed pineapple, undrained (I use a 20-oz can or as close to that as I can find.)
  • 1 orange (grind both pulp and rind) (I also grind this in my food  processor. I cut the orange into small pieces, but even so, the food processor doesn’t do a good job with the rind and I usually end up throwing some of the larger pieces away.)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup black walnuts
  • 2 packages cherry jello (I’ve also used cranberry jello, but either is fine. You can also use sugar-free jello if you wish.)

Grind cranberries and soak in sugar. Add pineapple, orange, celery and nuts. Dissolve jello in 2 cups of boiling water and pour over cranberries. Pour mixture into bowl and chill until ready to eat. Enjoy!


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