I’ve been eating this cranberry salsa since my cousin Tippy first made it 16 years ago. In the Twin Cities where she lives, she’s locally famous for it. She’d roll her eyes if she knew I told you this, which is just further evidence of its truth.
Every year around this time, I make jars of Tippy’s Cranberry Salsa to bring to holiday parties. At every party, without fail, three things will happen: A select few people will hover over the bowl, almost apologetically, surprised that they cannot stop eating. “What’s IN this?” they ask. These are the same people who will politely demand the recipe before the night ends. There are never any leftovers of Tippy’s Cranberry Salsa.
You can make salsa out of nearly any variety of fruit, but I wait all year for fresh cranberries to come around, and once you make this salsa yourself, you’ll understand why. The magic, I think, is in the merging of fresh ginger, tart cranberries and lime, and the subtle kick from the jalapeño. Save for the cranberries, these piquant flavors don’t typically grace the holiday table, or not together anyway, and so they contrast the richer, saltier foods that do.
Cranberries are indigenously North American and were used for medicinal purposes by Native Americans. Salsa is inextricably tied to the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs. I could not find the origin of Cranberry Salsa, but there is certainly no shortage of versions to be found online. This tells us that somewhere along the way, someone thought it’d be a good idea to fuse two foods with totally separate lineage, and people liked it enough that the idea spread. Tippy would insist I tell you that she first found this recipe as part of a cracker ad in a cooking magazine back in 2002, but anyone who knows Tippy knows this recipe as hers.
Why we love it:
Cranberries are a potent source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Scientists have identified over two dozen protective phytonutrients in cranberries, including anthocyanins, which have shown promise in supporting cardiovascular and metabolic health.
Phenolic acids and flavonoids in cranberries reportedly attenuate oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL cholesterol), as well as inflammatory damage to interior blood vessel lining (endothelium).
Cranberries are a true superfruit, if there ever was one. Indigenous to North America, eighty percent of cranberries grown worldwide are cultivated in the United States and Canada today. Long before the days of medical research, Native Americans intuited the health benefits of cranberries, and used them as a blood purifier, laxative, fever reducer, and for childbirth-related injuries. Besides medicine, cranberries were used for cooking, to make dyes, and as bait to trap the snowshoe hare. Pemmican, the first energy bar on record invented by Native Americans, was made from a mixture of pounded cranberry, ground deer meat, and fat tallow (Whitman-Salkin for National Geographic, 2013).
Tippy’s Cranberry Salsa
12 oz fresh cranberries
1 small jalapeño
2 T fresh cilantro
1 inch fresh ginger
1 T fresh lime juice
¼ c raw sugar
big pinch sea salt
1 small bunch green onions (4-5)
Slice the green onions thinly.
Peel and grate the ginger (a Microplane™ works great for this).
Seed and mince the jalapeño.
In a food processor, pulse the cranberries with the jalapeño, cilantro, ginger, lime juice, sugar, and salt, until the cranberries “resemble the texture of pickle relish” (Tippy’s words).
Fold in the sliced onions.
Serve with tortilla chips.
Jacqui Gabel is from Minneapolis and moved to Denver two years ago to attend NTI’s Natural Food Chef Program. Like many, she fell in love with Colorado and chose to stay. She’s currently working on completing her MNT certification. Find her on Instagram @realfooddesire.