Cranberry Salad

I have known of the existence of cranberries most of my life. I tried cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving when I was a kid and hated it. Too sour. Later in my life I tried dried cranberries, and found that I liked them as they were much sweeter. I have seen fresh cranberries for sale in bags around the holidays and assumed they were only good for making that cranberry sauce I had tried and hated so many years ago. Turns out, I have been missing out on the real nature of the cranberry.

Maybe it is because I have been reading “Flavor, the science of our most neglected taste” by Bob Holmes, but I have been willing to retry some things I thought I didn’t like lately. I wanted to really taste them and understand the flavors. Cranberries were on the list so I bought a bag. After washing them I set about the task of rediscovering the cranberry. They are a beautiful deep red color, and a little smaller than grapes. I popped one in my mouth and chewed. Maybe not a great idea as I was immediately hit with a strong sour/astringent taste. I pushed past that and discovered that the texture was soft but crisp, rather like an apple (I was expecting squishy grape texture). As the bite of the sour flavor eased up I found that there was a subtle fruity/earthy flavor that lingered.

I wanted to find a recipe that utilized the to good aspects of the cranberry – namely the lovely red color and the crisp texture, while balancing the sour taste. I found a winner in cranberry salad. The sour is balanced nicely with sweet, and rounded off with crunchy walnuts and some smooth whipped cream (and marshmallows). If you have ever tried Waldorf salad, it is similar in nature.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Cups of Fresh Cranberries, chopped (you can use frozen cranberries, but thaw them first). The pieces don’t need to be tiny, but chop them into several pieces.
  • 1 Can (20 oz) of unsweetened crushed pineapple, drained
  • 2 Cups of mini marshmallows
  • 1 Large apple, cored and chopped
  • 2/3 Cup of sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (Pecans or Pistachios would work)
  • 1 Pint of heavy whipping cream (if you don’t have an electric mixer see note below)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 Cup powdered/confectioners sugar

Directions

  1. In a large bowl mix the cranberries, pineapple, marshmallows, apple, sugar and salt. Stir well to get everything well mixed.
  2. Refrigerate for several hours, ideally overnight.
  3. Whip the cream, vanilla and powdered sugar on high until stiff peaks form. NOTE: This is really easy with a stand mixer. It is reasonably easy with a hand held electric mixer. It is a work out with a hand whisk – like future Olympic athlete level work out. If you don’t own an electric mixer skip the cream/vanilla/powdered sugar and buy 16 oz of whipped topping.
  4. Add the whipped cream and walnuts to the chilled ingredients and stir gently, just enough to mix it all together. (Fancy cooking term for this is folding)
  5. Garnish with a few cranberries and serve.

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