If you don't like cranberries, Thanksgiving is probably your worst nightmare. It's basically the only time of the year that they make an appearance, and if you don't eat cranberry sauce, well, why even bother? After all, the undisputed best part of Thanksgiving is assembling the perfect bite of turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.
Not being into cranberry sauce doesn't mean that you can't or shouldn't appreciate what is great about it. Cranberry sauce works because it's the lightly sweet, ultra-tart foil to the other rich foods on our plate. Think about it. Your plate has turkey smothered in gravy (rich), stuffing (so rich), mashed potatoes (the king of rich), plus whatever other butter-covered, cream-filled, buttermilk-soaked foods your family makes every year.
But that bite of cranberry sauce helps to cleanse your palate of that somewhat grimy feeling that can come in between bites of biscuit and corn pudding. For the same reason, it's the perfect spread for your post-Thanksgiving sandwich (the undisputed second-best part of Thanksgiving).
But despite totally cornering the market on Thanksgiving fruits, cranberries are not the be-all and end-all when it comes to saucing your holiday table. These three chutney recipes from The Culinary Institute of America are fresh alternatives to sliced "can-berry" that hit the same spot from a different angle.
Chutneys are typically a sweet, sour, and savory combination of fruits, vegetables, and spices that are cooked to a stewed consistency. CIA Chef John Kowalski explains, "Chutney contains fruit and sugar to give it a sweet taste, and almost all chutney contains vinegar and perhaps onions to give it a corresponding sour flavor. Like jams and jellies, chutney can be chunky or smooth. In India, spicy chutney is usually served with curry and often with cold meats and vegetables."
The Fall Vegetable Chutney, which is similar to an Italian caponata, uses the last of the season's farmstand ingredients, like tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplant. Because chutneys are cooked until they're soft, it's a great opportunity to use some of the produce you may have stored away in the freezer.
All of these recipes are great as written, but they're also a good jumping-off point for your own experimentation. The Mustard Fruits recipe uses dried dates, apricots, and apples, but you can use any of your favorite dried fruits, like raisins, pears, or figs. And the Cranberry-Pineapple Chutney would be just as delicious with mangoes and the addition of savory ground cumin.
Whether you make one of these relishes or all three, keep in mind that they are the perfect make-ahead items. Prepare the chutneys a week ahead of time, and you'll find that they only get better once the flavors have time to mingle.
And they aren't only good on the dinner table. Use the Cranberry-Pineapple Chutney as a pairing with dried sausages or pâtés, the Mustard Fruits for a savory baked Brie, and the Fall Vegetable Chutney for a crostini topper with a sprinkle of goat cheese. With all of these uses, you might even find room on the table for the cranberry sauce.
• This article was provided to The Associated Press by The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.