The Most Important Thanksgiving Dish Is Cranberry Relish

We settled the canned vs. fresh debate for good.

By Trey Smith
Oct 27, 2021
20 Minutes
6 - 8 Servings

While the gelatinous, cylindrical blob of cranberry sauce spewing from the can into a bowl just screams Thanksgiving for some, others swear by the homemade version.

To settle the debate once and for all, we turned to Chef Trey Smith, of Saint-Germain in New Orleans, who recently won Food & Wine Best New Chef of 2021.

“It’s not so much that I don’t like the can,” Chef Trey says. Instead, “one thing I always got used to was that at my house, we always made it.”

While for some, Cranberry Sauce can be an afterthought, Chef Trey argues that when you make it with red wine, orange peel, and cinnamon, and put it in a beautiful crystal bowl, well it’s an actual dish.

“We did a lot of the traditional dishes at my house,” says Chef Trey. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have Thanksgiving meals at other houses. Every house had a stuffing or a dressing, a mashed potato, a gravy, a sweet potato, but the one thing that I found was the least consistent was whether they had homemade or canned cranberry sauce, or none at all.”

Chef Trey’s recipe is his Grandmothers, and he loves sharing it because it’s really simple, very hard to mess up, and always a nice touch to both the formal Thanksgiving dinner, as well as if you’re into leftovers. “It just ties all of Thanksgiving together,” he says.

“A really fresh cranberry relish is the bright acidic dish needed to lighten the meal,” Chef Trey says. “So it’s a great compliment to all of the other dishes.”

And if you’re wondering why he calls it relish instead of sauce, that’s because when you use fresh cranberries, they kind of clump together, “like a jam,” he says. Here is his Grandmother’s Recipe.

The Most Important Thanksgiving Dish Is Cranberry Relish

We settled the canned vs. fresh debate for good.

Trey Smith

20 Minutes
6 - 8 Servings

    Toast your cinnamon stick in a dry pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant.


    In a 4 QT Saucepan, bring the wine and sugar to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.


    Once the sugar is dissolved, add the cranberries, cinnamon stick, allspice, and both pieces of the orange peel.


    Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes, until the cranberries break down and the sauce is slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.


    Mix in the salt and remove the orange peel and cinnamon stick.


    Cool completely in the refrigerator and serve when ready. This dish can be made a day ahead or even several days in advance.