Recipe: Cranberry and Fruit Thanksgiving Relish — Best Cranberry Sauce Ever!

November 19, 2022

What food do you most associate with, when you think about Thanksgiving?

There was an interesting holiday survey online conducted by SUPERVALU Market about Thanksgiving Food traditions and trends in different markets.  There are a lot of regional differences among things like how many people they invite, when they start planning, how many hours they spend cooking… as well as what they put on the holiday table.  For example, about 50% of Americans surveyed, it’s turkey, but for Minnesotans, 39% said turkey, and 19% said ham. And for those in Norfolk, VA, the third was Sweet Potatoes! (Not pumpkin?)  Very interesting!

For me, and many of our family and friends, it’s this cranberry and fruit relish.

As a matter of fact, I got a Skype call a few nights ago from our friend the Sysmans who we’ll be spending Thanksgiving with. They have been so generous inviting us for their Thanksgiving for years, and we even had pleasure of sharing it with not only their friends but also the wife, Tomi’s family.  She’s Japanese American, and her mom is Japanese from Japan like myself, so we get to talk really fast (faster than Tomi can catch up with!).  One time, my sister from Tokyo was visiting during the Thanksgiving.  Imagine they were talking away in Japanese!  My sister doesn’t talk much English, but sometimes her sister could be an reluctant translator and babysitter, she was very happy to find someone very friendly who can spend the entire evening conversing with.

Anyway, Tomi wanted to know what we could bring.  Their children Carolyne and Eryk was in the back ground of the Skype video, and chorusing “Cranberry Jello!” I knew it!  It’s their favorite they have been eating, since they were babies!

My sister won’t be here this year, but I will enjoy the company of Tomi’s extended family including Tomi’s sister Kei’s new baby, and especially her mom’s food!  This will be a Japanese American Thanksgiving, with traditional turkey and stuffings, AND Chirashi Sushi and Japanese Potato Salad (and everything else.  As you know by now, we Japanese are obsessed with food and lots of variety). I told them I will make my updated version of Nimono (Braised Japanese Root Vegetables) I posted on my blog the other day for something Japanese from my side. ” This is not your mother’s nimono…., this is new generation of Nimono!” (Sing in the tune of the Oldsmobile song!)

The husband Jan is Belgian, and I forgot if they are making any Belgian Fljites (better than French Fries!)…  I’m sure they will because they make them every chance they get!  Or I know he’ll be making waterzooi (creamy Belgian chicken stew) with turkey leftover!  It’s always a treat with the turkey broth.  Nonetheless, more traditional chicken version is always a hit at my classes!  I show people how to make quicker version of waterzooi from a rotisserie chicken, and while making it, we make 2 more soups out of it — rustic vegetable soup and pureed vegetable soup. Everyone loves how easy it is to make 3 dishes (and more variations if they want) from just one recipe!  And if there’s any leftover, they can make chicken pot pie, creamy chicken pasta, gratin, doria, etc…

Yes, yes, yes…  I will post a recipe soon.  As a matter of fact, I’d better do it soon so that you have more usages for your thanksgiving turkey leftover, right?

Anyway, this Thanksgiving cranberry side-dish has been handed down from my husband’s paternal grandma Henrietta.  She passed long before we got married, soInever had the honor of meeting her nor eating any dishes actually made by her.  However, her husband - Keith’s grandpa - Park who lived till 101 told me how great of a baker Hanky (that’s what he called her) was, and excruciating details of her German cakes which he missed dearly.

This is actually a very simple cranberry relish recipe using a box of jello, yet the power of this should not be underestimated. It is very refreshing, and can double as a dessert. Both children and adults love it alike.  On top of that, it’s healthy — it has a lot of fruits such as apples, pears and oranges, in addition to cranberries, and doesn’t require cooking - I can say this is highly optimized. And it’s bright red, it’s festive and surely adds color to the table. If you have a food processor, it’s super easy.  It requires all familiar ingredients that are really cheap! Probably the most exotic and expensive ingredient is cranberries, but they are cheap and abundant in the US during the holiday season!

Whenever we make it, people always ask for the recipe and nowadays it became so famous, we get Thanksgiving invitations with the requests for this, just like the Skype call from the Sysmans.

So I decided to post the recipe on my blog. My husband first resisted — “Nooo! It’s MY family’s secret recipe!”.  But those who eat it always ask for this recipe! And I grew up in Japan where’s there’s no traditional Thanksgiving celebration, I needed this for my readers!  So I asked “Wouldn’t it be great if your grandma’s recipe is enjoyed by more people in the world, not just by your immediate family?”

So here it is.  Kitchen Wizard is revealing another cooking secret, this one from her extended family.

Tasting… mmm….

Grammy Hanky’s Cranberry and Fruit Relish


  • 1 Small box of red jello (we like raspberry. Strawberry is a bit too sweet.)
  • 1 cup hot water (Do not add the second of batch of water, which is suggested on the box.)
  • 1 bag cranberries
  • 2 large oranges, peeled and segmented
  • 2 large apples, cored and cut in bite size pieces
  • 2 large pears (should be relatively firm), cored and cut into bite size pieces


  1. Mix jello with hot water to dissolve. Put bit-size pieces of fruit in the food processor and pulse several times to grind roughly to about 1/4″ cubes or smaller.  Make sure the cranberries are ground up well — if they are not, it could be tart.  Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to do it in two batches.
  2. When the jello is room temperature, add all the fruit including its juice. Mix well.  Chill in the refrigerator until set. (Because of the amount of fruit, it may not set completely.)

We love serving it with turkey in place of regular cranberry sauce or relish, or you can eat it as dessert as well, with or without whipped cream. We normally make a double batch, using the large jello box, and using 1/2 - 2/3 for the actual Thanksgiving, and save the rest for us to eat later.

Oh, this is also great when you are sick! When I had swine flu and pneumonia a year ago and didn’t want to eat, I asked my husband to make this, and I ate it everyday.

So there you have it.  Try it and leave me a comment on how you and your guests loved it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amy Royalty November 20, 2022 at 3:31 pm

This is my favorite Thanksgiving that our Grandma made every year. It is so fresh and flavorful, without being too sweet, and is a wonderful complement to the roast turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. Thanks for posting the recipe Mari!

2 Amy Royalty November 20, 2022 at 3:31 pm

Oops - forgot the word “recipe” after Thanksgiving.

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