This dish has been on our family’s Thanksgiving table for as long as I can remember. We have chilled canned cranberry sauce, too. That way everyone can admire the indented rings that come from the can when the cranberry jelly slides onto the serving plate. But no one would consider eating turkey without cranberry-orange relish. The recipe comes from Helen Corbitt’s Cookbook, published in 1957. Helen Corbitt was the doyenne of Texas dining and is widely considered to have single-handedly changed Texan tastes from exclusively chicken fried steak (Nothing the matter with that, I might add.) to things like asparagus and fancy desserts. She was from New York where she got a degree in home economics before becoming a therapeutic dietician at two of New York City’s most prestigious hospitals. From there she moved to the University of Texas at Austin to teach and run a laboratory kitchen. She was recruited away from that to star in several country club and hotel restaurants before landing at Nieman-Marcus’ flagship store in Dallas. She established her celebrity there, and was regarded to be the arbiter of good cooking in all of Texas.
For our version, we follow Helen Corbitt’s original recipe almost exactly – except we add a cup of chopped Texas pecans. It is my observation that at Thanksgiving, everything should contain a few pecans. Usually we grind the cranberries and oranges in a meat grinder as instructed by herself, but in this latest cross-country move we have squirreled away the grinder, not sure where in the unpacked boxes. Besides, when we did it that way, orange juice always ran out of the back end of the grinder requiring a pan on the floor to catch the mess. I thought my Vitamix might work well as a substitute, and I was right. The relish turned out just as I remembered it, and the cleanup was much easier.
Here’s a wish for all of my blogging friends: Have a Happy Thanksgiving.
Cranberries and oranges
Cranberries in the beaker
Vintage Helen Corbitt’s Cookbook
Vitamix Cranberry-Orange Relish
- 1 quart whole cranberries (about 1½ packages of commercial cranberries)
- 2 large navel oranges, cut into eighths
- 1½ cups sugar
- 1 cup pecans, chopped coarsely
- With the Vitamix setting on VARIABLE and power at 3, add the cranberries to the beaker. Pulse and use the plunger to move the cranberries to the blades of the mixer. When the cranberries are chopped to your liking, transfer them to a large bowl.
- Working in three batches, add the orange pieces to the beaker. Pulse at the same settings, using the plunger to ensure even chopping. Transfer the chopped oranges to the bowl. Stir in the sugar and pecans until the mixture is evenly combined.
- Chill for a couple of hours or overnight. Serve the chilled relish as part of your Thanksgiving table.
This recipe came as a wedding gift. It was given to Susan by Mrs. Murray, the wife and mother of the family with whom I lived for a while during professional school. Mrs. Murray was a good baker, but dilly bread was one of her specialties. I asked her for the recipe every time she made it, but she always declined or “forgot.” It was an old family secret, she explained, but when Susan and I were married, she gave Susan an index card with the hand-written recipe inscribed on it. She presented the card with great flourish and the admonition not to pass the instructions along as it was a real family secret. For a few years, Susan honored the request until she was asked to contribute a recipe to a fund-raising collection that was being assembled by the Housestaff Wives’ Club! (Do they even have such a thing these days? And it is probably called Spouses’ Club.) In any event, Susan inadvertently omitted a key instruction about letting the bread dough rise. If one is a baker, one would probably have figured that out, but many in the group of newly- and recently-wed women did not. They accused Susan of intentionally leaving out key instructions. That’s what some home cooks, protecting their prowess and their secrets, did in those days. Susan has never again contributed a recipe to a cookbook project.
I believe that Mrs. Murray’s family recipe may not have been as old as she suggested. The Pillsbury Company sponsored an annual Bake-Off® * which was very popular with home cooks in the 1950s and 1960s. The events were always held in big cities, and the winners took away a lot of prizes including cash, new stoves, and mixers. Leona Schnuelle was declared the Grand Champion at the 1960 Bake-Off® in Washington, D.C., with her recipe, “Dilly Casserole Bread.” The win must have been very exciting for Mrs. Schnuelle who lived on a farm near Crab Orchard, Nebraska, a town of around 40 southeast of Lincoln. In my efforts to track down the dilly bread history, I keep coming back to Mrs. Schnuelle, so I guess she must be considered the inventor of dilly bread. I say that with a little uncertainty because dilly bread has been described as “Amish dill bread”, and there are others who claim invention. All of the claims that I have found come after 1960, so in my opinion Mrs. Schnuelle can still claim inventorship.
This recipe has several differences from the original prize winner. It uses fresh onion instead of dehydrated onion; amounts of ingredients have been doubled; a brief kneading has been added; and loaf pans are used for baking instead of a casserole. You will note that I have included instructions for rising. The cottage cheese may retard rising, so it might take longer than with regular bread. Be careful not to kill the yeast with too-hot water, as I did in one try for the blog. In spite of all these changes, it is basically the same recipe as Mrs. Schnuelle’s, and the end result is the same – tender, delicious, fragrant bread that you might wind up eating at one sitting.
*Pillsbury is trying to resume the event in cooperation with Rhee Drummond and the Food Network. Deadline for entries was November 10.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup finely chopped onion
- 2 envelopes active dry yeast
- ½ cup warm water (105-115°F)
- 2 cups small curd cottage cheese
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons dill seed + some to sprinkle on top before baking
- 2 teaspoons dill weed (If you like, substitute finely chopped fresh dill fronds)
- 2 large eggs
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- melted butter
- Kosher salt
- In a small pan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion and cook slowly until translucent. Do not allow to brown. Set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, add warm water and sprinkle the yeast. Stir until completely dissolved and let stand for 5 minutes.
- Add the cooked onion, cottage cheese, sugar, salt, baking soda, dill seed, and dill weed. Mix thoroughly. Then stir in the eggs until they are fully incorporated.
- Add the flour, a cup at a time, mixing it thoroughly after each addition. Use a large spoon for mixing at first, but as the dough becomes stiff, use your hands to mix in the flour. When the flour is completely incorporated, knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. If the bowl is large enough, you may knead the dough in it. You can also knead the dough on a floured surface.
- Wash, dry, and oil the mixing bowl. Return the kneaded dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 – 2 hours.
- Punch down the risen dough. Divide in half and shape into smooth loaves. Put the loaves in two well-greased 9 inch x 5 inch bread pans. Cover and let rise for the second time in a warm place until doubled in size. The dough should just about reach the edge of the pan. Immediately before putting them in the oven, brush the tops of the loaves with melted butter, and sprinkle with dill seeds and Kosher salt (I use Welsh smoked sea salt – Halen Môn – but any coarse salt will do.)
- Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350°F for about 50 minutes or until the loaves are well browned and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Turn out of the pans and cool on a baking rack.
The big day arrived on Saturday. An electrician came and moved the electrical receptacle so that the range could be pushed into the waiting space. After shoving, lifting, adjusting, etc. the range was declared installed. The burners came on. The oven heated up. There was no alarm or error message. All of that happened just in time because it was our turn to host our family Sunday dinner. I had already planned to make chili in the slow cooker as a fall-back, so I went ahead with that plan. I had promised my grandson some cornbread to go with the chili if the stove wound up being installed. Cornbread turned out to be the inaugural dish cooked/baked in the new stove. The stove is great. There are just enough bells and whistles to let you know it is a new stove, but not so many that you can’t figure out how to operate it without a degree in electrical engineering. Most importantly, the stove has KNOBS that you turn to start a burner or the oven. There are no electronic touch panels that would almost certainly short out at some time to require an expensive electronic replacement.
The chili bubbled away for hours in the slow cooker. Spoiler alert for all Texans. I added pinto beans, and they required the extra hours of simmering. In line with the theme for the night, I made a jicama and kumquat salad with a light dusting of ground chiles along with queso fundido with chorizo on tortillas for snacks with drinks. A chili night, even though we had all the windows open.
Grated asadero cheese and sauteed chorizo
Queso fundido with chorizo
Per our custom, Carol’s contribution to the meal was dessert. She planned on using apples as it is now apple season, but she could not decide on a French apple tart or an American apple pie. Her family is fond of both, so she decided to make one of each and have a vote of preference by the family. The desserts were both beautiful and both delicious, but the French tart won, hands down. Carol was pleased with the outcome because she said the tart was much easier to make. We did not do a calorie comparison. No one wanted to know.
French apple tart
American apple pie
As to the cornbread, the oven worked beautifully. I added green chiles and cheddar cheese to the standard family cornbread recipe. I did not use sugar, but if you are one of those folks who believe that cornbread needs a touch of sweetening, you can add 1 tablespoon of sugar to the dry mixture. I also baked the bread in a cast iron skillet. I believe that makes a crisper crust, but you can use a well-greased baking pan instead. A 9×9 or 9×13 inch pan should do, although the bread will be thinner and crisper with the larger pan. You may need to cut the baking time a little short.
Hot skillet just out of the oven
Green chili cheese cornbread
Green Chili Cheese Cornbread
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup yellow cornmeal
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 4 ounce can chopped green chiles, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, buttermilk, and beaten eggs.
- Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and combine with a fork or spatula until they are evenly mixed. Stir in the green chiles and grated cheese.
- Pour the batter into a well-greased cast iron skillet that has been heated in an oven pre-heated to 425°F. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes or until the top of the cornbread is evenly browned.
- Cool on a baking rack for 5 minutes. Cut into eight wedges and serve while still warm.
Back to the slow cooker; next step in the stove saga (epic?) is set for Saturday. We shall see. One thing about it, using the cooker for most meals encourages creativity. What can you put in the crock that will not taste the same as the last thing you cooked? Even though there are libraries full of slow cooker recipes, for me there are only a few things you can put in the pot and cook all day. I confess. I have gotten better at it, and I have figured out how to use lots of things from the refrigerator. Still… I would be willing to bet that every slow-cooker aficionado out there has a recipe for hamburger, broth, and vegetables so this will not be an exciting post. But the recipe is very easy – and better than I had hoped.
Simmering in the slow cooker
A bowl of soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks celery, chopped coarsely
- 4 cups beef stock
- 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- juice of ½ lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- Add the olive oil to slow cooker set at LOW. Stir in the onions, cover, and cook for a few minutes until the onions are translucent.
- Stir in everything else: ground beef, carrot, potato, celery, beef stock, canned tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, garlic, lemon juice. Cook on LOW for 4 hours, longer on SIMMER or until the carrots and potatoes are fork-tender. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaves. Serve.