At the opening of the movie Home for the Holidays Holly Hunter’s character Claudia walks through the airport and past a bank of pay phones (pay whats‽). One of the exasperated callers, talking to his parents begs, “Mom, Mom, you know I can’t eat that stuff anymore!”
Eating out in the DC metro area has probably shifted most of our palates from the comfort foods of our childhoods and while we all still love a buttery bowl of mashed potatoes, there are probably many foods on the traditional Thanksgiving table that just don’t fit in with the grain bowls, fusion tacos and ramen that we dine on daily.
Enter my Aunt Ali’s cranberry mold. This was my childhood favorite dish at Thanksgiving. When I asked her for the recipe a few years ago I discovered an ingredients list of powdered jello, canned cranberries and pineapple. Determined to update this fond memory I started by making a simple homemade jello using pomegranate juice and gelatin. Toasted, local, black walnuts from the farm market combined with chopped, fresh cranberries and pomegranate seeds deliver a dish that tastes more like the food I see when scrolling through photos on the Menupoly app but still tugs at my heartstrings.
Whether you’re enjoying Thanksgiving dinner at home or out at your favorite restaurant I wish you a day with much to be thankful for!
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 fresh 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.
Jonathan Bardzik is a storyteller, cook, speaker and author based in Washington, DC. Jonathan believes life can and should be lived well, a goal within reach every single day by preparing a simple meal and sharing it with the people we love. You can find more recipes, videos and Jonathan’s cookbooks at JonathanBardzik.com. Discover what he’s up to each day by following him on Instagram @JonathanBardzik.