When fresh Wisconsin cranberries begin to appear in early November at the farmer’s market it’s like nature signaling the holidays are here. With their scarlet red hue matching the universal color of the season, they brighten many Thanksgiving tables in the form of relish or a smooth sauce, but this Cranberry Orange Salsa recipe is my favorite. A little bit sweet, spicy, and tart all at the same time makes it a definite palate awakener.
I’ve tried many raw cranberries salsas, but I’m just not a fan of their texture. I’ve remedied this by cooking half of the cranberries down during a short stint on the stove with ginger, orange zest, and a bit of sugar to bring out their natural sweetness. Many times you’ll find cranberry recipes loaded with sugar to temper the tartness, but stewing the fruit a bit achieves the same result.
The raw cranberries take a spin in the food processor with orange segments, leeks, and as much or as little jalapeno as you’d like. Fresh mint and cilantro give it a twist and balance the bold flavors. Combined with the juicy cranberries from the stove, the texture is just perfect.
And let’s not forget about their smashing healing properties! When the berries are water harvested from natural bogs, they have a larger amount of anthocyanin (what gives the berries their amazing red color). This is because they float and are therefore exposed to more direct sunlight, increasing the concentration of this antioxidant. Additionally, cranberries are also high in anti-inflammatory properties.
Ideally I like to give the salsa a few hours in the refrigerator for all the flavors to mingle, but if you’re in a pinch it’s still great right after it’s made. Another reason I love this recipe—its versatility. Go ahead and amp up a few dishes after you’re done noshing on it with crunchy tortilla chips. I enjoy it spread on gluten free bread with triple crème brie for an easy, gourmet grilled cheese sandwich. Whisked with olive oil, it also makes a punchy vinaigrette for a hearty green salad. Whatever way you choose, enjoy this fresh and zesty salsa over the upcoming holiday season!
For cooked cranberry portion:
• 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
• 1 tablespoon water
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
• Zest of one orange
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, water, and cranberries. Stir and cook until sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook until cranberries start to soften and release their juices (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat, and set aside.
For raw cranberry portion:
• 2 cups fresh cranberries
• 1 orange, white pith removed, cut into segments and coarsely chopped
• 1 small jalapeno, seeds removed and chopped (or a 1/2 jalapeno if you prefer less heat)
• 1/3 cup sliced leeks, white & green parts (could use chopped red onion instead if needed)
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 3 tablespoons each of chopped fresh mint and cilantro
Add cranberries, sugar, and orange to food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add leeks, jalapeno, and fresh herbs to mixture, then pulse 6 to 7 more times. Add this mixture to cooked cranberries and stir to combine. Refrigerate for a few hours, then serve to let flavors marry, then serve. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead.
Amanda Paa is a passionate tastemaker, self-taught cook and author of the blog HeartBeet Kitchen. She focuses on eating seasonally and embracing a farm-to-table philosophy with respect to developing recipes every home cook can recreate. She enjoys celebrating her own roots, as well as incorporating other world cuisines that make meals different and interesting. Amanda believes the heart of living lies within sharing wholesome, nourishing foods with the ones she loves most.