Everyone’s got them. Those wonderful little holiday traditions that make the holidays the holidays. You know the ones. The smells that make Thanksgiving real. The songs that put you in the Christmas spirit whether you’re in the mood or not. The activities that make Christmas break memorable. The little things you can count on every year. The things your kids write about when they are given the journal prompt, “Holiday Traditions” in their classes. Many of these traditions have to do with food. The one I am about to share with you will have your family talking for centuries to come.
In our family, we just call it “Cranberry Salad.” But since no one knows where it came from, and it’s just been in the family for as long as anyone can remember, I took the liberty of sprucing up the name of it a bit. Because it really is the freaking bomb.
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I PROMISE YOU that if you make this salad once, it will be your permanent assignment at every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner you go to for the rest of your existence. No one will let you in the door without it. It will become a staple. Right up there with turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes. Thanksgiving won’t be Thanksgiving without it. Christmas won’t be Christmas without it. And if your girls are like mine, you’ll be required to make at least 3 trial runs in the month of October just to be sure you remember how to make it before the holidays even hit.
Ready? Here we go.
It all starts the night before. You can make it all in one day, but you’d need to do the cranberries FIRST thing in the morning so they have time to soak for most of the day. They need to chill and soak in sugar for at least a few hours. The longer they do, the sweeter your salad will be. (But don’t leave them TOO long, or else they’ll be a sugary mush which is no good either). So I’d say (and I’m totally making this up…this timeframe is not the part that has been passed down from generation to generation…did I mention I’m taking a few liberties here?) anywhere from 5-15 hours of soak time. 5 hours would be a little less sweet where 15 hours would be pushing the mushy limit. ANYWAY…
You need 2 bags of cranberries. Wash them and throw out any mushy ones. Only use the hard, firm ones. Throw them in a food processor and grind them up.
For those without a food processor:
When I left home I didn’t have a food processor, so my mom gave me a mini Cuisinart one and it is PERFECT. I think the only thing I have ever used it for has been cranberries! I tried using a blender and it didn’t go as well; a food processor really is ideal here. But you don’t have to buy (and store) a big one – the mini works great; you just have to do 2-3 batches since it has a small capacity. I have linked one like mine here. I love that it’s small and doesn’t take up a lot of cupboard space, since I only use it for this one salad. It’s also under $30, so it doesn’t feel like you’re spending a ton of money on a tool to make this one salad. It’s worth it. Trust me. This salad will change your life.
Grind the cranberries. I throw them in my Pampered Chef Classic (8-Cup capacity) Batter Bowl. It is the perfect size to soak the cranberries overnight, has a tight-fitting lid, and well, it’s just perfect.
After all the cranberries are ground up and in a bowl, pour 1 1/2 cups of sugar over them.
Stir well, cover, and refrigerate overnight (5-15 hours).
When you’re ready to make the salad, pour a cup of heavy whipping cream into a bowl and whip with electric beaters until stiff peaks form (sweetening the whipping cream with powdered sugar is optional – it’s more of a personal preference, depending on your sweetness preference).
Take the cranberries out of the refrigerator and drain all the delicious sugary juice. Press lightly. Don’t squeeze the crap out of them or your salad will be dry. But you also don’t want your salad to be soupy. So find a happy medium here. I use a colander and just press lightly.
I pour the drained cranberries right back into the batter bowl and make the rest of the salad right in the batter bowl. Why dirty another dish if you don’t have to?
Pour the whipped cream into the cranberries. Stir.
Wash and cut 2 cups of red grapes in half. Add them to the bowl and stir.
Add 1 1/2 cups mini white marshmallows. Stir.
If you like nuts and don’t have nut allergies in the family, add 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts. This step takes this salad from amazing to mind-blowing amazing. So if some can’t have nuts but some can, I’d recommend splitting the salad and adding nuts to yours, because…WOW.
Stir it all up and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to devour it like a pack of ravenous wolves. It’s so freaking delicious. It can be eaten immediately, but honestly, I like it a few hours later. If you eat it immediately the marshmallows kind of don’t feel like an integral part of the salad quite yet, because they haven’t had time to soak up all the flavor and become one with the rest of the salad. If you let this salad sit longer than 3 days, the marshmallows will hardly be marshmallows any longer, because they will have become almost TOO integral with the salad.
I’m just sayin’…when you’ve made this salad 3-5 times a year for your entire life, you tend to notice these things…
So I thought I’d pass them on along with the recipe.
And now, what you’ve been waiting for this entire post…I present to you your free downloadable copy of this life-changing, tradition-worthy freaking bomb cranberry salad.
Keep this post bookmarked or pin it on Pinterest so you can share it with your friends and family when they ask you for the recipe! 😉
What are some of your favorite holiday recipes? Comment below (with links, if available)! I’d love to try some new ones this year!