Side Dishes and Relishes

Anise-Pear-Cranberry Relish

This is a replacement for the icky canned jellied cranberry relish that was always served at holiday dinners when I was a kid. It was the only way I ever saw cranberries while growing up, and I hated it. I could not then have told you then what a cranberry looked or tasted like, by itself.

By the time I learned what they were and had tasted them, I knew there wasn’t enough sugar on Earth to make them* taste good. I avoided anything with cranberries in it for years.

But eventually, I found that cranberries can be made gastronomically interesting. Who in attendance can forget the Cranberry-Serrano Relish of the 1988 Thanksgiving dinner on the eve of the USC-Notre Dame game just after niece Ellen’s graduation? After 14 years, I decided the family deserved another alternative. Not a substitute, mind you; just an alternative. It is different (and not jellied!).

  • 2 medium Bosc pears, rinsed, cored, peeled, and cut into ½” dice
  • 1 large (about 8 oz) orange
  • ¾ cup <sugar>
  • 1 cluster star anise (or ¾ tsp anise seeds, but it’s not the same!)
  • 1 3” stick cinnamon
  • ½ cup honey
  • 3 cups cranberries, fresh

Grate enough peel (orange part only) from the orange to make 1½ tsps of zest. Ream the juice from the orange, measure, and add enough water to make ½ cup. In a 3- to 4-quart pan over high heat, stir orange juice, star anise, <sugar>, and cinnamon stick until sweetener is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in honey and pears and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally until edges of pears are barely tender to bite, about 3 minutes. Remove cinnamon and anise debris.

Stir in cranberries. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cranberries begin to pop and pears are tender when pierced, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool.

Pour into serving bowl. Serve cool or cold.

Makes 4 cups.