Karen’s Not-Yet-Famous Fruit Relish

Thanksgiving is this Thursday (in the United States; Canada celebrated in October) so it seems appropriate to digress from my usual posts and share a recipe. This tangy fruit relish has warm, spicy notes that feel very Autumnal and it goes well with a traditional feast.

I first made this relish two years ago and have been tinkering with it ever since; you’ll see there are several variations. I brought it to a couple of parties, where everyone seemed to like it and I’ve given out the recipe a few times, so now I’m sharing with the virtual community. It’s highly adaptable: you can tweak the spices and even the ingredients, and it goes equally well over a slice of pound cake or as a side dish. Aside from the sugar, it’s quite healthy–but don’t let that deter you!

A Little History

Many years ago, my parents and another couple took a vacation in New England together. Almost everywhere they ate they were served a side dish of cranberries and… something else they couldn’t quite put their finger on. Mom said it was pears; the other lady said apples. Finally they asked a waitress, who confirmed that it was pears. Every Thanksgiving since, Mom made cranberry-pear relish. I liked it, but thought that more could be done with it. In particular, I wanted a bit of spark, something spicy.

Karen’s Not-Yet-Famous Tangy Fruit Relish


In a saucepan, combine 1 can (approximately 14 – 16 oz) pears in natural juice with about 1/2 teaspoon each of ginger and cloves, and a little grated lemon peel. (I used dried lemon peel because that’s what I had, but fresh would be excellent.) Bring to a boil and add 1 can (approximately 14 -16 oz) whole cranberries. Simmer everything together until the jellied cranberry juice dissolves and the whole cranberries are freed. Add about one tablespoon of white wine vinegar and simmer for 10 or 15 minutes longer, to combine flavors.

Allow to cool and store overnight (or several hours) in the refrigerator. Can be served warm as an accompaniment to a meal.


1. Garnish with chopped nuts and/or raisins just before serving.

2. In place of the pears, core, peel and chop two apples and simmer until softened.

3. Add a small can (about 6 oz) diced or crushed pineapple just before the cranberries.

4. If using fresh fruit, simmer until softened. Cranberries are very tart, so add sugar (to taste) if using fresh, unsweetened berries.

5. In place of the ginger and/or cloves try cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice. Try candied ginger in place of dried ground ginger.

You can serve this as a side dish with poultry or ham, or as a sweet-tart snack or dessert. Spoon a little over a slice of pound cake or sweet bread, or serve cookies on the side. Makes a nice accompaniment to cheese and crackers.
So there it is… I’m getting hungry writing this and eager to hit the stove. If you try it, let us know if you tried any of the variations and how you liked it.

2 thoughts on “Karen’s Not-Yet-Famous Fruit Relish

  1. Karen E. Lund December 2, 2013 / 7:52 am

    I’m finally remembering that my tablet has a camera and grabbing some timely shots. On Thanksgiving I took a picture of my cranberry relish to update this post.


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