What’s your favorite dish on the Thanksgiving table? Is it the stuffing, mashed potatoes, the green bean casserole or maybe the sweet potatoes? Now tell me who prepared that dish every year.
You remember, right? Of course you do. Because it’s not just green bean casserole, it’s your Aunt’s Mary’s green bean casserole. It’s grandma’s stuffing and your Mom’s mashed potatoes.
Growing up one of my favorite dishes was my Aunt Ali’s cranberry mold. The flavor balanced sweet and tart, while the texture offered silky jello and the firm bite of walnuts. Several years ago I asked Aunt Ali for the recipe. What I received was a surprise.
The recipe called for boxes of cranberry or cherry jello. Suspended in it was a can of crushed pineapple, a can of whole cranberry sauce and, of course, the walnuts. While I’m sure it’s still delicious it no longer fits into the way I cook or the way so many of us eat.
My first thought was to make homemade jello. My brother works for the Wonderful Company, the makers of Pom pomegranate juice. I set it with sugar and gelatin. I replaced the cans with chopped fresh cranberries and pomegranate seeds. I finished the dish with lightly toasted, locally harvested black walnuts.
Even with the changes this will always be Aunt Ali’s cranberry mold. That also means that no matter who does the cooking this Thanksgiving your Mom, your Grandmother, aunts, uncles and best friends will all be right there with you at the table. They’ll be there in your food, in your memory, and in your heart.
Aunt Ali’s Cranberry Walnut and Pomegranate Mold
This is a flavor update of my great aunt’s recipe. It trades the cans and mixes of the 60’s for today’s desire for fresh ingredients.
4 tbs gelatin
4 cups pomegranate juice
1 cup sugar
1 star anise pod
2 cups cranberries
1 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
Additional pomegranate seeds for garnish
- Place 1 cup pomegranate juice in a large bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over the juice and allow it to hydrate – also called blooming. When gelatin has swelled with liquid, whisk in an additional 2 cups juice.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan bring remaining 1 cup juice, 1 cup sugar and star anise podto a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes to infuse with star anise flavor. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar fully dissolves. Remove star anise and whisk into juice and gelatin mixture. Place bowl into refrigerator to partially set. It should become thick but still pourable.
- Place cranberries in a food processor and pulse 3-4 times until roughly chopped. Add cranberries, walnuts and pomegranate seeds to partially set juice and stir to completely blend. Pour into a 10 cup Bundt pan or ring mold and refrigerate to set completely.
- To unmold dip pan into a bowl of warm water for a minute. Place a serving plate over the ring mold and invert. If the mold doesn’t release from the pan place it in the bowl of water for another minute.
- Sprinkle additional pomegranate seeds over mold to serve.