Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish aka NPR Cranberry Relish for Thanksgiving

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving dinner without Roast Turkey and all the fixin’s. Cranberry Relish turns a rather bland piece of turkey into something really tasty — and if you have never tried a bite of turkey with cranberry relish on the same fork — you really should. Several years ago, my brother-in-law brought a very unique version of “Cranberry Relish” to our family’s traditional Thanksgiving meal. You either really liked the dish which includes a “secret ingredient” or thought that these cranberries should never be served again.

I loved the Cranberry Relish but have to admit that this dish is different. The color is Pepto-Bismol pink. Yes, hot pink. The recipe is very simple to make with only five ingredients which include cranberries, onion, sour cream, sugar and horseradish. What? Yes, horseradish. Horseradish sauce is the “secret ingredient” and gives an unexpected “lift” to the relish. Larry usually doubles the recipe so there is plenty of relish for the brave souls and horseradish-lovers who ate most of the dish.

Susan Stamberg and “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio

Larry discovered this recipe while listening to National Public Radio’s (NPR) radio personality, Susan Stamberg, who discusses the recipe every Thanksgiving. The unconventional recipe for cranberry relish actually is her mother-in-law’s recipe which dates all the way back to 1959. She clipped the recipe out of a New York Times article by Craig Claiborne about cranberry relish.

Susan Stamberg served as co-host of the evening news broadcast, “All Things Considered,” on NPR beginning in 1972. She was the first female to anchor a national nightly news broadcast — hosting the show for 14 years — and won many awards for her reporting. After almost 50 years, Stamberg continues reports for NPR, now as a Special Correspondent on the weekly news show, “Morning Edition.” And every year she still shares her Thanksgiving recipe, each year with a new story or twist.

Quite by coincidence, my husband always listened to Susan Stamberg’s evening newscast on his drive home from work in the 1980’s. He remembers Stamberg’s pleasant voice and gentle stories. And he clearly remembers Stamberg recounting her “Cranberry Relish” recipe at Thanksgiving. What a small world.

NPR has given permission for me to share the recipe. The link at the end of the blog post gives cranberry relish stories from many years of Susan Stamberg’s broadcasts. This is what Stamberg said about the recipe on a Morning Edition broadcast on Nov 17, 2017:

For the past almost-50 years, I’ve been sharing an old family Thanksgiving recipe with NPR listeners. Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish comes from my late mother-in-law Marjorie Stamberg, who served it in Allentown, Pa., when I was brought there to be inspected by my future in-laws. I thought it was delicious, made it every year at Thanksgiving, and because I like tradition, wanted to give listeners a tradition of their own. I always warn them that it’s a recipe that sounds awful (whoever heard of putting onion and horseradish in with cranberries?), but tastes terrific. And it does! Trust me, it does! (Nov 17, 2017 on Morning Edition, NPR)

Fresh Cranberries Recipes

For a few brief months each fall and winter, fresh cranberries grace the shelves of our produce markets. These tart berries add interest to many recipes and I have enjoyed finding ways to use them. I love using them in desserts such “Meyer Lemon and Cranberry Cakes.” And they pair well with oranges and other fresh fruit in as “Fresh Cranberry Compote.” Both are recipes which I shared in previous blog posts.

Recipe for Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish, aka NPR Cranberry Relish

At Thanksgiving, why settle for canned cranberry relish when there is so much more? Give Mama Stamberg’s recipe for “Cranberry Relish” a try. It is easy so to prepare — no stove top cooking required. Here are the ingredients: fresh cranberries, sugar, a small onion, horseradish and sour cream. (I used about 1/4 of this large white, onion and used the entire 12-oz package of fresh cranberries.)

HINT: The instructions call for making this recipe the day before Thanksgiving. Let the relish freeze in the freezer overnight. The next morning, move the relish to the refrigerator compartment and let it thaw. It should have little icy slivers left. It will be thick, creamy and very pink! What a knock-out dish!

To make the recipe, process the onion and cranberries in a food processor until they are very fine, but not pureed. Susan Stamberg uses an old-fashioned meat grinder. If you have one of these, great! Otherwise, use the pulse setting on the food processor for just a few pulses at a time. Scrape down the sides as you go and continue to you get a very fine, but not pureed consistency. Then transfer to a bowl and mix in the other ingredients including the horseradish. Transfer to a shallow non-metallic container which is freezer-proof and let it freeze overnight.

Remove the relish the freezer on Thanksgiving morning and let thaw until it just has a few slivers of ice on it. (I found that this took several hours, so give plenty of time for defrosting.)

Stir it up and transfer to decorative serving dish. I couldn’t help it, we sampled the relish just after it was made and it tasted pretty good without being frozen. So if you miss this step, serve the cranberry relish anyway. For horseradish lovers, this is delicious.

Susan Stamberg, wishes that families will have a new tradition of their own with her recipe. Our family has certainly followed her wish and has adopted “Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish.” Cranberry Relish with horseradish — and an onion — who could have imagined this combination! Larry now brings it to every Thanksgiving meal and I love it — with a bite of turkey!

Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish aka NPR Cranberry Relish

  • Servings: 1-1/2 pints
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

The 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.


  • 2 cups whole raw cranberries, washed*
  • 1 small onion**
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp horseradish from a jar (red is a bit milder than white)

Method and Steps:

  1. Grind the raw berries and onion together. (Susan Stamberg uses an old-fashioned meat grinder. I’m sure there’s a setting on the food processor that will give you a chunky grind — not a puree.)
  2. Add everthing else and mix.
  3. Put in a plastic container and freeze.
  4. Several hours before serving, move it from the freezer to the refrigerator compartment to thaw. (It should still have some icy slivers left.)
  5. The relish will be think, creamy and shockingly pink. (OK, Pepto-Bismol Pink)

*I used an entire 12-oz package of fresh cranberries, about 3 cups.

**I used only 1/4 of a white onion in the dish. A small amount goes a long way!

Source: “Mama Stamberg Takes Her Cranberry Relish Recipe To Ocean Spray’s CEO” Heard on, Morning Edition. Used with permission from National Public Radio.

Reference for more of the NPR Thanksgiving’s Broadcasts:

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