2:57am

Fri November 22, 2013
The Salt

Thanksgivukkah: A Mash Of Two Holidays That's Easy To Relish

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 2:35 pm

It's that time of year again. Time for Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish. Every year since 1972, around Thanksgiving, I've shared my mother-in-law's famous cranberry relish recipe on the radio. It's appallingly pink, like Pepto Bismol — but it tastes terrific.

This year, I bring my relish recipe to Thanksgivukkah. Next week, Thanksgiving and the start of Hanukkah fall on the same day. It's a rare convergence.

How unusual is it? Well, the last time Thanksgiving and Hanukkah shared a start date was 125 years ago — and it won't happen again for another 76,000 or so years. The overlap involves the calendar that says this is 2013, and the Jewish calendar based on the solar and lunar cycle.

I asked Keith Devlin — Weekend Edition's math guy — to explain.

"Thanksgiving is the easy one," Devlin says. "You know, it's the fourth Thursday every November. So anybody can do that. That was a nice, simple, American-style celebration that doesn't change from year to year."

"But then you've got this thing called the Jewish calendar, which is, as is appropriate with the history of the Jews ... [it's] got a lot of complications."

Complications like changing every year, a month here, a month there.

"The simplest way to look at it is that the Jewish calendar is slowly moving forward," Devlin says. "Roughly it moves forward about four days every thousand years. So this is pretty slow. And that's why it would take maybe 70,000 or 80,000 years before this thing cycles all the way around again and hits Thanksgiving again."

So let's eat! Turkey, of course. You can't have Thanksgiving without it. But instead of the usual sweet potatoes, how about latkes — Jewish potato pancakes — made with schmaltz?

"Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat flavored with onion," explains Michael Ruhlman, the author of The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song To A Forgotten Fat. He has a schmaltzy take on traditional Hanukkah latkes.

Instead of standing over a pan of hot oil, frying grated potato pancakes one by one, Ruhlman makes a latkes kugel — a baked casserole of grated potatoes and schmalz. He'll mix schmaltz into his potatoes, put more schmalz in the bottom of a big cast iron skillet, and, he says, "roast it till they're all golden brown and crunchy."

This method, he says, "is easier on the cook, and everybody gets to eat at the same time."

That's when I ran some of my relish recipe by Ruhlman.

Here's what's involved in it: raw cranberries, sugar, a small onion, sour cream and horseradish. Grind it all together and then freeze it. On the morning of Thanksgiving, thaw it and serve at dinner. It's very tart and shockingly pick. It's the color of Pepto Bismol — that's been pointed out to me over the years by NPR listeners.

"That's kind of a whacky recipe," Rhulman tells me.

But Ruhlman is game. He says he'll try Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish, even though, he says, "It sounds absolutely bizarre."

"Michael, here's an idea," I tell him. "This is a kind of piquant, tart sauce. But it's got sour cream in it. Traditionally, you put sour cream and applesauce on latkes. How would it be if you put Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish on top of your latkes kugel?

"That is a great idea. That I will do," he says.

And bingo! I move on to find my next potential relish relisher: Tina Wasserman. Her most recent cookbook is Entree to Judaism for Families. What does she think of latkes at Thanksgiving?

"The one thing about the Thanksgiving table is if you add another starch to it, nobody notices," she says. "They're very happy with it."

Tina Wasserman's ideal Thanksgivukkah/Hanukkah-giving table would have turkey and something pumpkin. She says pumpkin is part of Jewish tradition — a symbol of prosperity and the circle of life. Tina makes pumpkin custard — and cooks the custard inside the pumpkin shell.

"This actually was the forerunner of the modern pumpkin pie, it's what the pilgrims ate," she says.

I tell her about a joke I saw on Buzzfeed. How do you make pumpkin pie Jewish? Add rye flour and caraway seed to the crust, and then teach it a Torah portion.

In addition to turkey and pumpkin custard, Wasserman's Thanksgivukkah table has one ingredient that's close to my heart: relish.

"I do an Apple-Pear-Cranberry-Gran-Marnier relish," she says. "With orange juice and orange zest."

"I have a cranberry recipe," I tell her. She knows what I'm talking about. She's heard it on the radio (I've recited it for the last 104 consecutive years, after all).

"If you're going to add Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish to the table, which I think they should ..." she starts. "No, I figure if it's been reported this many years, there are a lot of people that are enjoying it."

Wasserman thinks the fact that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlap this year makes for even better food and family and memories.

"This is a time to give thanksgiving for what's been brought to the table by your ancestors," she says. "And that to me, regardless of whether you celebrate Hanukkah or not, is really what it's all about for Thanksgiving."


Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish

Editor's Note: As Susan Stamberg has noted, her mother-in-law got the recipe from a 1959 New York Times clipping of Craig Claiborne's recipe for cranberry relish. In 1993, Claiborne told Stamberg: "Susan, I am simply delighted. We have gotten more mileage, you and I, out of that recipe than almost anything I've printed."

This relish has a tangy taste that cuts through and perks up the turkey and gravy. It's also good on next-day turkey sandwiches and with roast beef.

Makes 1 1/2 pints

Ingredients

2 cups whole raw cranberries, washed

1 small onion

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons horseradish from a jar ("red is a bit milder than white")

Instructions

Grind the raw berries and onion together. ("I use an old-fashioned meat grinder," Stamberg says. "I'm sure there's a setting on the food processor that will give you a chunky grind, not a puree.")

Add everything else and mix.

Put in a plastic container and freeze.

Early Thanksgiving morning, move it from freezer to refrigerator compartment to thaw. ("It should still have some little icy slivers left.")

The relish will be thick, creamy and shocking pink. ("OK, Pepto-Bismol pink.")


Another Favorite Recipe

Here's a little something extra — my truly favorite cranberry side dish. It's from Madhur Jaffrey's Cookbook: Easy East/West Menus for Family and Friends.

Garlicky Cranberry Chutney

1-inch piece of fresh ginger

3 cloves finely chopped garlic

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

4 tablespoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 pound can cranberry sauce with berries

1/2 teaspoon salt (or less)

Ground black pepper

1. Cut ginger into paper-thin slices, stack them together and cut into really thin slivers.

2. Combine ginger, garlic, vinegar, sugar and cayenne in a small pot. Bring to a simmer; simmer on medium flame about 15 minutes or until there are about 4 tablespoons liquid left.

3. Add can of cranberry sauce, salt and pepper. Mix and bring to a simmer. Lumps are OK. Simmer on a gentle heat for about 10 minutes.

Cool, store and refrigerate. It will keep for several days, if you don't finish it ALL after first taste!

Have a wonderful holiday!

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Next week, the first day of Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving. This is a rare convergence which NPR special correspondent Susan Stamberg will explain, briefly, before moving on to the fun - which in this case, means cross-cultural food suitable for marking both celebrations. Susan found some pretty tasty suggestions for this year's unusual holiday mash-up.

SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: First off, how unusual is it? Well, the last time Thanksgiving and Hanukkah shared a start date was 125 years ago. And it won't happen again for some 76,000 years. The overlap involves the calendar that says this is 2013, and a calendar based on the solar and lunar cycle.

KEITH DEVLIN, BYLINE: Thanksgiving is the easy one.

STAMBERG: This is Keith Devlin, WEEKEND EDITION's math guy.

DEVLIN: You know, it's the fourth Thursday every November. So anybody can do that. You know, that was a nice, simple, American-style celebration that doesn't change from year to year. But then you've got this thing called the Jewish calendar, which is, you know, as is appropriate with the history of the Jews, this has got a lot of complications.

STAMBERG: Like changing every year - a month here, a month there.

DEVLIN: The simplest way to look at it is that the Jewish calendar is slowly moving forwards. Roughly, it moves forwards about four days every thousand years. So this is pretty slow. And that's why it would take maybe 70- or 80,000 years before this thing cycles all the way around again, and hits Thanksgiving again.

STAMBERG: So let's eat. Turkey, of course; you can't have Thanksgiving without it. But instead of the usual sweet potatoes, how about latkes - Jewish potato pancakes - made with schmaltz?

MICHAEL RUHLMAN: Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat flavored with onion.

STAMBERG: Michael Ruhlman is the author of "The Book of Schmaltz: A Love Song To A Forgotten Fat." He has a schmaltzy take on traditional Hanukkah latkes. Instead of standing over a pan of hot oil, frying grated potato pancakes one by one, Ruhlman makes a latkes kugel. It's a baked casserole of grated potatoes and schmaltz. He'll mix schmaltz into his potatoes, put more schmaltz into the bottom of a big cast-iron skillet.

RUHLMAN: And roast it till they're all golden brown and crunchy. And that's easier on the cook, and everybody gets to eat at the same time.

STAMBERG: Well, Michael Ruhlman, I have a certain Thanksgiving recipe that I would like to run by you. (You knew this was coming, didn't you, listener?) And here's what's involved in it: raw cranberries, a small onion, some sugar, some sour cream and horseradish. And you grind and mix it all together. You freeze it, and then let it thaw the morning of Thanksgiving and serve it.

It's very tart, shocking pink, and it's the color of Pepto Bismol - that's been pointed out to me over these years that I've been telling the recipe, by NPR listeners.

RUHLMAN: That's kind of a whacky recipe. Do you cook the cranberries?

STAMBERG: (Laughter) You think this is whacky?

RUHLMAN: I think it's a little whacky, yeah. Horseradish, and onions and cranberry?

STAMBERG: No one has ever said that before. Michael Ruhlman is game, however. He says he will try Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish, even though...

RUHLMAN: It sounds absolutely bizarre.

STAMBERG: Michael, here's an idea. Now, this is a- sort of a piquant, tart sauce. But it's got sour cream in it. Traditionally, you put sour cream and applesauce on top of latkes. How would it be if you put Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish on top of your latkes kugel?

RUHLMAN: That is a great idea. That, I will do.

STAMBERG: Bingo! And here's another potential relish relisher: Tina Wasserman. Her most recent cookbook is "Entree to Judaism for Families." Latkes, Thanksgiving?

TINA WASSERMAN: The one thing about the Thanksgiving table is, if you add another starch to it, nobody notices. You know, they're very happy with it. (Laughter)

STAMBERG: Tina Wasserman's ideal Thanksgiving-kah-slash-Hanukkahs-giving table would have turkey and something pumpkin. She says it's part of Jewish tradition, a symbol of prosperity and the circle of life. Tina makes pumpkin custard - cooks the custard inside the pumpkin shell.

WASSERMAN: This actually was the forerunner of the modern pumpkin pie; it's what the pilgrims ate.

STAMBERG: I saw a joke on a website called Buzzfeed.

WASSERMAN: Uh-huh.

STAMBERG: Here's the joke. How do you make pumpkin pie Jewish? Here's the answer. Add rye flour and caraway seeds to the crust, then teach it a Torah portion.

(LAUGHTER)

STAMBERG: In addition to turkey and pumpkin custard, Tina Wasserman's Thanksgivukkah table has one ingredient that is close to my heart.

WASSERMAN: I do a - apple, pear, cranberry, Grand Marnier relish; with orange juice and orange zest.

STAMBERG: I have a cranberry recipe.

WASSERMAN: Uh-huh?

STAMBERG: She's sounding a little guarded, huh? She has heard it on the radio. After all, I've recited it for the last 104 consecutive years.

WASSERMAN: If you're going to add Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish to the table - which I think they should, you know...

(LAUGHTER)

STAMBERG: How much did they pay you for this, Tina?

(LAUGHTER)

WASSERMAN: No. I figure if it's been reported this many years, you know, there are a lot of people that are enjoying it.

STAMBERG: Tina Wasserman thinks the fact that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlap this year makes for even better food and family and memories.

WASSERMAN: This is a time to give thanksgiving for what's been brought to the table by your ancestors. And that, to me, regardless of whether you're celebrating Hanukkah or not, is really what it's all about for Thanksgiving.

STAMBERG: Oh, thank you so much. That's perfect. And a very, very happy combined holiday to you.

WASSERMAN: To you as well.

STAMBERG: And to all of you. I'm Susan Stamberg, NPR News.

GREENE: Susan, I can already taste your cranberry relish. And you can find the recipe for Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish at our website, npr.org. Now, Susan was clearly on to something here. Thanksgivukkah is getting all kinds of buzz. There's an American Gothikkah poster, the classic image of the farmer and his wife, but holding a menorah. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The painting "American Gothic" portrays a farmer and his daughter, not his wife.] And for those inspired to get a Jewish candelabra that's more Thanksgiving-y, well, Asher Weintraub, a fourth-grader from New York, came up with the menurkey.

ASHER WEINTRAUB: I like to design and invent things. Last winter, my mom told me that Hanukkah and Thanksgiving are going to be on the same day this year. That got me thinking: What if there was a menorah in the shape of a turkey? That's when I had the idea for the menurkey.

GREENE: After fundraising on Kickstarter, Asher's dad, Anthony, says they've sold over 2,000 of these menurkeys. Oh, but there's more. Los Angeles is holding a festival with food trucks and bands, and T-shirts with the tagline "Eight Days of Light, Liberty and Latkes. And we're going to leave you with this: a Thanksgivukkah ballad by Rabbi David Paskin from Canton, Mass. It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

RABBI DAVID PASKIN: (Singing) Thanksgivukkah. Thanksgivukkah. Let's celebrate across America. Thanksgivukkah. Thanksgivukkah... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.