Cooks’ Exchange: Cranberries star in holiday favorites

November 22, 2018

If your kitchen counter resembles mine, there are notes of many sizes taped to it with reminders of what needs to be accomplished before company arrives for Thanksgiving.

When I was growing up in the early 1940s, Thanksgiving was celebrated at my grandparents’ home on Moulton Court, then a few years later, at home where holidays continued to be warm, cozy, aromatic and delicious.

Somewhere along the way in the early 1950s, prior to the meal, cocktails were added and served in the front room on a round coffee table offering an array of appetizers including salted nuts, cheese and crackers, chips and dips, sliced sausage and salami, marinated vegetables, and shrimp cocktail. We spoiled ourselves by carefully indulging while saving plenty of room for turkey served later with all the trimmings.

When families gather, there’s usually something that happens to become the chuckle of the year and that took place in 1962 when Dick and I celebrated our first Thanksgiving together. Though born in Lynn, Massachusetts, he grew up in Warren, Ohio, and after spending four years in the Air Force, arrived in Madison in 1958 to join the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 176th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. Apparently a cocktail feast like ours to precede turkey and all the trimmings was something he hadn’t experienced back home because when pumpkin and mince pies were served for desert with dollops of whipped cream, he suddenly disappeared and we learned that that he was “so full” he decided to walk around the block.

It became the holiday chuckle of the year and this year he’ll be reminded again of his first Thanksgiving spent with a brand new family in Madison, far from Murray traditions back home in Ohio.

Everyone must have a memory worth sharing about Thanksgiving feasts that deserves a chuckle or two. Longtime reader Dorothy Kruse recently shared a recipe for cranberry salad, cautioning readers that it should never be served with Thanksgiving dinner because it is “way too rich and heavy with calories, yet so delicious that it has been a favorite part of every Kruse Thanksgiving dinner for many years.”

Cranberry salad

½ pound cranberries

1 cup sugar

1 cup red grapes, seeded and halved

¼ cup miniature marshmallows

¼ cup chopped walnuts

½ pint whipping cream, whipped very stiff

Wash, cull out imperfects, and drain cranberries. Grind or chop finely into relish consistency, Add sugar, stir together and refrigerator overnight.

The next day, remove cranberry- sugar relish that sat overnight and fold in grapes, marshmallows and nuts into the stiffly beaten whipped cream. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Another Kruse favorite with the holidays approaching is a delicious way to top off a meal. She loves Grasshoppers, but never has time to go through the process of making them, so instead, measures equal amounts of Crème de Menthe and white Crème De Cacao in an easy pour container to shake well before pouring over a scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream to enjoy as a sundae. Kruse claims this to be very good and very easy, any time of the year and can be blended, if you prefer, to serve as a drink.

Another favorite and “very refreshing” cranberry salad recipe arrived from Wanda Selje who clipped it from a magazine shared by the owners of Cheyenne Crossing, near Spearfish Canyon Resort in South Dakota.

Winter sparkle salad

1 apple

2 cups cranberries

8-ounce can crushed pineapple (juice pack) saving juice

1/3 cup sugar

3-ounce package of raspberry gelatin

½ cup boiling water

½ cup sweet red wine, such as Riunite Lambrusco or cranberry juice.

Peel, core, and cut up apple. Using a food processor with coarse blade, grind apple and cranberries. Drain pineapple, reserving juice, and add with sugar to apple cranberry mixture. In a large bowl, stir together the gelatin and boiling water, stirring until gelatin dissolves. Stir in the apple cranberry mixture. Add enough water to the reserved pineapple juice to make ½ cup. Add pineapple juice and wine to gelatin mixture. Pour into a 1 ½ quart glass bowl. Chill for 4 hours or until firm. Makes 6 servings

Cranberry turtle bars were meant to appear here a few months ago, but a revised copy was needed first. This is one of Marti Clausius’ favorites and what she gives to her neighbors and friends during the holiday season.

Cranberry turtle bars

For the base:

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup packed light brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter cut into ½-inch cubes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 10x15-inch shallow baking pan (1-inch deep) with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the two short sides and butter all four sides, but not the bottom. Blend flour, brown sugar and salt in a food processor, then add butter and pulse until mixture begins to form small, roughly pea-size lumps. Sprinkle into baking pan, then press down firmly all over with a metal spatula to form an even layer. Bake in the middle of oven until golden and firm to touch, 15-17 minutes, then cool in pan on a rack.


2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter

1 2/3 cups granulated sugar

¼ cup light corn syrup

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups (12 ounces) pecans, toasted and cooled, then coarsely chopped

Melt butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat and stir in sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Boil over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally until caramel registers 245 degrees on thermometer, about 8 minutes. Carefully stir in cranberries, and boil until caramel returns to 245 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, then stir in pecans until well coated. Working quickly, spread caramel topping over base, using a fork to distribute nuts and berries. Cool completely.


4-6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, very finely chopped

Lift bars in foil from pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 6 crosswise strips, then 6 lengthwise strips to form 36 bars. Melt chocolate and transfer chocolate to a small heavy duty, re-sealable bag. Seal bag and snip off tiny piece of a corner to form a small hole and pipe chocolate decoratively over bars. Let stand at room temperature until chocolate sets, about 1 hour.

By using wax paper between layers, bars will keep in an airtight container for one week.

Cranberries are used in many recipes and this unique recipe is from the Warrens Cranberry Festival held in Warrens every November as the Cranberry Capital of Wisconsin. Thanks to Portage resident Delores F. Rasmussen whose recipe using ground turkey appears in “Blue Ribbon Favorites: Delicious Recipes From Food Fairs and Festivals Across the Nation.”

Saucy cranberry meatballs

2 pounds ground turkey

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup fine, dried bread crumbs

1 package dry onion soup mix

16-ounce can of whole cranberry sauce

1 cup ketchup

1 cup packed brown sugar

16-ounce can sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9x13-inch pan with cooking spray. Place the turkey, eggs, bread crumbs, and soup mix in a large bowl and mix until blended. Scoop out the turkey mixture about 2 tablespoons at a time and form it into balls. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer in the prepared pan. Whisk together the cranberry sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, sauerkraut, and water in a medium bowl. Pour the sauce mixture over the meatballs and bake for 1 hour or until mixture is bubbling and the meat is no longer pink inside.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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