Cranberry-Orange Salad recipe

Cranberry sauce is a staple at holiday dinners, whether it's store-bought or homemade.

Cranberry sauce is a staple at holiday dinners, whether it's store-bought or homemade.

Cranberries are indispensable for the holidays. Thanksgiving dinner without cranberries? Unthinkable, at least at my house.

And although there are thousands of folks who pledge allegiance to canned cranberry sauce, whether whole berry or jellied, I’ve made my own for years.

I make a fresh relish with chopped cranberries, apples, oranges and pecans and one batch of cooked cranberry sauce, made with the same ingredients, and sugar to taste. No recipe, just as much of each as I feel like adding. They have the same ingredients, but the two methods yield completely different results.

With a half hour’s work, I have cranberries to tuck away in the refrigerator, waiting to brighten my meals into January.

Cranberries are relatives of our native blueberries, all members of the Vaccinium genus, so I wondered why we don’t grow them here. I checked in with Scott NeSmith, horticulture professor at the University of Georgia. He told me that while cranberries are a relative of blueberries, they are most closely related to the wild blueberries of Maine and Nova Scotia, native to the low-lying peat bogs of the Northeast.

He said our climate is not cold enough during the winter and is too hot during the summer to suit cranberries.

The Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association is one of the country’s oldest farmers organizations, established back in 1888. Their website,, offers a fascinating view of what it takes to grow cranberries, from how much water is used to keep the cranberry bogs afloat to spreading sand over the frozen bogs so when the ice melts the sand sinks down and stimulates development of new roots.

It leaves no doubt that we won’t be seeing cranberries growing on any large scale down here in Georgia.

Since you won’t be finding locally grown cranberries at our farmers markets, you’ll have to get yours at the grocery store. Fresh cranberries are generally available starting in mid-September. Sold in 12-ounce bags, they will keep in your refrigerator for about four weeks. For longer storage, put the package in a sealable freezer bag and freeze; they will hold for up to 18 months.

Cranberry-Orange Salad

Hands on: 10 minutes

Total time: 10 minutes, plus resting time

Serves: 8

Instead of cranberry sauce, how about a cranberry salad for your holiday table this year? Oranges and cranberries seem to have a natural affinity, with their tart, sweet flavors. In this recipe you’re essentially making a fresh cranberry relish, and then spooning it over greens for a very festive side dish.

1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries (about 2 1/2 cups)

4 oranges

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

1/2 (half) small red onion, finely chopped

1/4 (quarter) cup sugar, more if needed

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 cups baby spinach

2 tablespoons olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor, coarsely chop cranberries. Transfer to a medium bowl. Peel oranges and cut into sections over the bowl to catch juice. Add sections to cranberries.

Stir in celery, onion, sugar and ginger. Taste to see if additional sugar is needed. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

When ready to serve, toss spinach with oil and arrange on platter. Top with cranberry mixture and serve immediately.

Per serving: 116 calories (percent of calories from fat, 26), 1 gram protein, 22 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 4 grams fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 16 milligrams sodium.

For more ideas about gifts, decorating, where to eat and what to do, check out our complete Atlanta Holiday Guide.