This weekend, the kids and I visited one of my oldest and dearest friends in Chicago. Jean taught me how to teach kindergarten twenty years ago and she’s still teaching. Saturday she taught my children how to use a 19th-century food processor. She told the kids it was a grinder, and that sounded marvelous to them. Jean’s iron grinder was heavy, oddly-shaped, and shiny silver. It clamped on to the side of her worn, oak kitchen table. She showed how it trapped food in a chamber on the top. She put an apple in the chamber and guided Dave’s 5-year-old hand in turning the curvy, long, wooden handle. Lauren (9) and I watched bits of apple ooze out of metal holes in a ring on the grinder’s side. The apple bits fell into a bowl on the table. Jean sprinkled sugar and cinnamon on them, gave the kids spoons, and they had an old-fashioned applesauce treat.

“Can we do this at home Mom?!” they pleaded. “Can we get one? Please!!!” Jean ran interference for me and explained that this grinder was so old I probably wouldn’t be able to find one at a store.

“Maybe Grandfather’s got one in the basement,” I offered. This ray of hope pacified them. They hadn’t been this excited about a machine since they’d watched a terrier-sized robot vacuum my neighbor’s floor. They’d wanted one of those too.

Jean explained that she had the grinder out because she had just made cranberry relish for Thanksgiving. She took some out of the ‘fridge to show me. The bits of cranberries, apples, and oranges looked and smelled fresh and sweet. Jean said the bits of orange rind in the relish preserve it for six months. She gave me a taste. It was exquisite in flavor and texture. It tasted like a refreshing, sweet, crisp, and most delicious, smoothie. I knew I wanted to make it for the holidays – grinder or not.

I asked where Jean had gotten the recipe. “Oh, the recipe’s as ancient as the grinder,” she answered. It had been passed around through a long chain of friends, but had originated with the Sinsinawa Dominican nuns in Sinsinawa, Wisconsin. Jean called it Dominican Relish. Since it was an old Wisconsin food – traditional for the holidays, – I knew I had to make it and write about it.

Click on “Continue reading…” for the recipe so you can make it, enjoy it, and give it to friends, – just like you do with all the best things in life.


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