CRANBERRY THOKKU ( Spicy Cranberry Relish)

“ It has been an unchallengeable American doctrine that cranberry sauce, a pink goo with overtones of sugared tomatoes, is a delectable necessity of the Thanksgiving board and that turkey is inedible without it. ”
~ Alistair Cooke

A little bit of the History on how Cranberries happen to be on the Thanksgiving table each year…..

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First Thanksgiving

The Cranberries grew wild in the North east states of the U.S and the Native Americans have supposedly shared it with the early settlers in the first ever Thanksgiving meal held in 1621, as a part of the celebration and the custom stuck, soon to become a tradition of each household here, to give Thanks and receive blessings on this day of Thanksgiving. The native Americans used the cranberries not only for eating, but also for dyeing their clothes and as a medicine in healing arrow wounds.

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Cranberries

Some Other Facts on Cranberries :

1. Cranberries are one of only three fruits that are native to North America. It’s a wild fruit that grows on long-running vines in sandy bogs and marshes, mostly in the Northeast, but also in the Pacific Northwest.

2. Native Americans were the first to enjoy cranberries. They mixed deer meat and mashed cranberries to make ‘pemmicana’—a survival food. They also believed in the medicinal value of cranberries—long before science discovered cranberry’s health benefits.

3. Native Americans also used the rich red juice of the cranberry as a natural dye for rugs, blankets and clothing.

4. Cranberries were called “sassamanesh” by Eastern Indians. While the Cape Cod Pequots and the South Jersey Leni-Lenape tribes named them “ibimi,” or bitter berry. It was the early German and Dutch settlers who started calling it the “crane berry” because the flower looked a lot like the head and bill of a crane.

5. It wasn’t until the 1800’s that people began farming cranberries. At first growers would pick the cranberries by hand. Today most cranberries are harvested using a technique known as wet harvesting. That’s when the bog is flooded with water and the cranberries float to the surface, where they are easily scooped up.

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Cranberry Bogs

6. Sailors once used cranberries as a source of vitamin C to prevent scurvy. Besides Vitamin C, we now know that cranberries are also full of antioxidants that help cleanse and purify the body.

7. Some cranberry bogs are more than 100 years old and still produce today.

9. Americans consume some 400 million pounds of cranberries a year, 20 percent during Thanksgiving week.

10. American recipes containing cranberries date from the early 18th Century. ( Info Courtesy- The Net)

Cranberries are garnet colored pretty fruits, so widely popular during this season.Charmed by their beauty, I had bought a bag full of them last season, used a little and the rest I froze.This holiday season, wanted to try something different with the cranberries I had frozen, hence made this Cranberry Thokku ( a spicy cranberry relish ) which can be stored for future use if stored in an airtight container and keeping it free of moisture.This morning we had a traditional breakfast with another Indo- American fusion dish,the yummy Cranberry ‘Thokku’ with ‘Kuzhi Paniyaram’ which is also called by different names around the globe (/Ebelskiever (Danish),Poffertjes (Dutch),Takoyaki(Japanese)Pinnyaram( Indonesian). Needless to say, it is a yummy relish, I am going to make often from this day forward coz’ it has multiple uses, you can spread it on your sandwich, or have it with your Yogurt rice as a side (if you are raised in the state of Tamil Nadu where I was in South India, you are practically inseparable, the yogurt rice & you !) on those days when you are too tired to get adventurous in the kitchen, or like my friends here say it goes yummy with any kind of meat as a side or topped with a bland version of meat (as it is had here with the Turkey and the gravy topping), either way, this Cranberry ‘Thokku’ is here to stay!

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Cranberry Thokku ( Spicy Cranberry Relish)

Cranberries are strange fruits,says the author,Stephen,”The cranberry is fruit with a dark side, fruit with skeletons in its closet, a conflicted, complex and mysterious food. Cranberries aren’t plain and one-dimensional,cranberries are a completely different sport. Where apples play little-league soccer at the rec center down the street, cranberries are backyard wrestlers”….. they look so lovely , yet they are tart in taste, so you always want to use some sweet like brown sugar or in this case Jaggery to balance the tartness.What turns out would be something you savor for a long time.Cranberries can be used in anything from desserts to sauces to marinades to salad toppings

Ingredients:

Sesame oil – 2 tbsp( extends the shelf life, adds a lovely flavor unlike other oils, that might turn rancid)
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Asafoetida – a pinch
Fenugreek powder – ⅛ tsp ( made with coarsely ground dry roasted fenugreek seeds)
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Red chili powder – 1 tbsp
Cranberries – 2 cups, frozen or fresh
Tamarind/’Tamico’ paste – 1 tbsp
Jaggery/Brown sugar – 1 tbsp (grated)

Method:
1.Dry roast the Fenugreek seeds to a light brown & then grind them to a coarse powder with a mortar & pestle.
2.Warm the oil in a wok/’tawa’ and add mustard seeds, wait for them to splutter before you add the fenugreek powder, asafetida, turmeric & red chili powder.Do not allow them to burn, lift the wok from the fire if need be, but do not burn them.
2.Next add the washed Cranberries into the wok, switch to medium heat & keep stirring to coat the spices in. By now the cranberries will start popping, and you can mash them gently with a back of a ladle.
3.Now add the tamarind paste & the jaggery & stir well.You will notice, the water evaporating from the mix and the ‘Thokku’ lumping up, with the oil gently separating from the sides.It’s then time to remove the ‘thokku’ from heat source.
4.Allow it to cool to room temperature & then store it in air tight glass containers for future use.Refrigerate for long lasting results, make sure you don’t use a wet spoon each time you open the bottle.You will have a yummy treat for those days when you can’t remember which side the kitchen faces…. Remember ? those days,when you drive through the snow covered roads battling traffic and road raged maniacs let loose on the road ?? Yes, those days when all you can do is hold a sandwich & perhaps coat it with your yummy ‘thokku’, after gripping the wheel so tight for hours together, where you knuckles turn white 😉  🙂  No worries,’Thokku’, to the rescue!!!
Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving .Many blessings of the season 🙂

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