About this time of year, we can all find ourselves missing someone; family, friend, or maybe just someone who had a big impact on who you became today. I am missing all of these, and they are all found in just one person. Her name is Norma. A name she never liked, but learned to live with it… and without.
One day, Norma forgot her name, after forgetting many things. The name was there but sometimes not. It was hard to witness, but she deserved no less from me. She never had to ask me, she usually never did… for anything. But soon, too soon, even that was gone.
I miss her every day. Its really not possible for me to think not about her every day. I look at her face every day…. staring back at me from the mirror. There is a song that goes “you’ll still love her when it all goes dark, you’ll love her even after that.” That nails it for me.
Norma always made me want to be a better person. Why? “Well, because that is what you are here to do. Why else would you be here in the first place?” These are the words I hear in my head and I don’t know who else would have put them there. I have no memory of her saying this to me…ever. Yet I know the words are hers…at least they are for me.
This year, a smaller group of my family gathered. It made me think of those who were used to having Norma’s Cranberry Relish and Fluff. There even used to be the Relish vs. the Fluff camps, but our numbers were so much smaller this year, that I find that this too, is maybe lost? Each family grows, ages and sometimes, begins to drift apart. It is the way of things. Each of us knows we only have so much time here. That’s the point of living: to live. So I want to make sure I give this to you all, this gift of Norma’s life. From her to you, and her gift to me is?…Well, I get be a part of it. 🙂
Norma began making this cranberry dish back when getting cream was not easy to do (1960’s). She used canned evaporated milk and she made it work..at least for the day. We had a big family and there weren’t going to be any left overs. When there are 9 +people including 6 boys in one house, the words “left overs” were not used to refer to food. Her practicality was pretty good. It was as if she was always trying to figure out a better way to do…anything…everything. It rubbed off on most of her kids. Ask any spouse of my brothers, nieces or nephews. Its how our brains work. We have Norma brain. A great way to think.
There is no measured recipe for this dish and never has been, so I will stay true to her instructions.
You may need some ( and hopefully all) the following ingredients:
For Cranberry Relish:
1-2 bags of fresh cranberries, rinsed and or sorted. (toss any soft ones) Chopped coarsely ( I do this by pulsing in my food processor several times, keep the pieces around a medium chop.)
Sugar to taste (I use a raw sugar) you want a balance between the tang of the berry and the sweet. Don’t add too much now-sometimes it takes a bit of time to strike to a balance. You can always come back to this after adding the rest of the ingredients and add more, if needed.
Ground cinnamon, to taste
Fresh grated nutmeg, to taste (please don’t use the pre-ground)
Orange (or orange family-tangerine, clementine, etc) zest, from at least one orange (or equivalent smaller citrus) or more, to taste. If the zest is a bit lacking, just a smidge of orange extract can’t hurt.
Crushed pineapple, unsweetened and drained-you want to add enough so it will stand up to the cranberry flavor, but not so much as to be dominant.
Pecans- broken into pieces, enough so it plays a part (not just an accent).
Stir everything together and let them get acquainted for a bit, at least 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Serve cold. Great with smoked meats.
For Cranberry Fluff:
Norma made it with evaporated milk, chilled pretty cold. She even chilled the bowl. Add a splash of vanilla extract and sugar to taste. Oh, and the mini marshmallows. I have been chided for the failure to add the mini marshmallows. (Don’t mess with the Marshmallow camp.)
I used to make my own whipped cream, but the acidity of the cranberries even breaks the cream by the next day. I finally caved and use whipped topping (now don’t shake your head….its only once a year-I can live with myself).
Fold a good size dollop of whipped topping into the relish and stir a bit to loosen the relish up. Then gently fold in as much whipped topping and marshmallows as you like. Taste it along the way till it gets where you like it. Chill until ready to serve.
You need to save some of the relish back, this is important. There should always be some family members in the Relish camp. BTW, we do allow you to be members of both camps.
Whether Relish or Fluff, I hope you think of the special person in your life when you eat this. What Norma and I hope for is: That you will make this recipe and pass it on as well.
Cherish every day and enjoy it for what it is. A gift.