Mama Stamberg Takes Her Cranberry Relish Recipe To Ocean Spray's CEO

Nov 22, 2019

For decades, I've managed to sneak my family's controversial, Pepto-Bismol-pink cranberry relish recipe onto the air, and 2019 will be no exception. This year I went straight to the source: Bobby J. Chacko, President and CEO of Ocean Spray.

To start off, I want to know: Has he ever stood in a bog? "Absolutely," he answers. "It's one of the most exciting feelings when you're in waders and in water and all you have around are cranberries."

Standing in a sea of crimson, up to his hips in berries and cold water, Chacko says he feels like a kid again.

Chacko has been at Ocean Spray since 2017 — long enough to learn the answer to my next burning cranberry question: What's up with the name Ocean Spray? Not all cranberries grow near oceans, right? Chacko says it goes back to a company founder. "Every time he stood near the beach, the spray of the ocean always triggered emotions of refreshment," Chacko explains.

Now, nearly 90 years later, the farmer-owned cooperative has 2,000 employees. It's an almost $2 billion business, though Chacko says sales flattened in the past five years — climate change has been an issue, and big frosts hit some farmers hard. But he hopes that reaching younger buyers and globalizing will get more cranberries on the table.

"It's a wonderful, wonderful fruit if you love tart," Chacko says. "And if you don't, there are an incredible number of recipes — "

Oh? What's that? You're looking for a cranberry recipe? Funny you should mention it, I have just the thing:

Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish

The relish has a tangy taste that cuts through and perks up the turkey and gravy. It's also good on next-day turkey sandwiches, and with roast beef.

2 cups whole raw cranberries, washed

1 small onion

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup sugar

2 tbs horseradish from a jar (red is a bit milder than white)

Grind the raw berries and onion together. (I use an old-fashioned meat grinder. I'm sure there's a setting on the food processor that will give you a chunky grind — not a puree.)

Add everything else and mix.

Put in a plastic container and freeze.

Several hours before serving, move it from the freezer to the refrigerator compartment to thaw. (It should still have some icy slivers left.)

The relish will be thick, creamy and shockingly pink. (OK, Pepto-Bismol pink.)

Makes 1 1/2 pints.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK, on this Friday before Thanksgiving for more years than we can count - in fact, more years than some of us would like to count - NPR's Susan Stamberg manages to sneak in her family's controversial recipe for a staple of the holiday table, at least in her family. This year is no exception, although Susan is going to try to disguise her mission. Our special correspondent is not a fan of transparency, as you will now hear.

SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: Did you ever stand in a bog, Mr. Chacko?

BOBBY CHACKO: Absolutely. It's one of the most exciting feelings when you are in waders and in water and all you have around you are cranberries.

STAMBERG: He's got to be president and CEO of Ocean Spray, right? A booster, enthusiastic. He says he feels like a kid again standing in a sea of crimson, up to his hips in berries and cold water. Bobby Chacko has been at Ocean Spray since 2017, long enough to explain the company's name, which really does not make much sense. Not all cranberries grow near oceans. Mr. Chacko says a company founder named it.

CHACKO: Every time he stood near the beach, the spray of the ocean always triggered emotions of refreshment.

STAMBERG: Now, almost 90 years later, the farmer-owned cooperative has 2,000 employees and was a $2 billion business. Sales have flattened in the last five years, Chacko says, but they're working to bump it up, going for younger buyers trying to globalize. Climate change has been an issue. Big frosts hit some farmers hard.

Are cranberries part of your annual Thanksgiving dinner?

CHACKO: Oh, it always is.

STAMBERG: Notice the deft change of subject?

CHACKO: It's a wonderful, wonderful fruit if you love tart. And if you don't, there are incredible number of recipes.

STAMBERG: Do you have a favorite recipe for cranberry sauce?

CHACKO: Yes, the one my wife makes. She adds a little bit of cinnamon and nutmeg.

STAMBERG: Well, Mr. Chacko, there's the recipe that I give - here we go - every year on the radio. And it may surprise you to hear what the ingredients are. Well, of course, there are raw cranberries, right?

CHACKO: Yes.

STAMBERG: Two cups of them. But then here come the funny things. There's a small onion. There's three-quarters cups sour cream. There's half a cup of sugar and - this is the kicker, and this is the one that intrigues or maybe, yes, repels listeners the most - two tablespoons of horseradish.

CHACKO: Oh, wow. Susan, when are you inviting me over for Thanksgiving?

STAMBERG: He likes it. He says he'll put Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish in their recipe book. Oh, wow. Maybe because I forgot to tell him it's the color of Pepto-Bismol, shocking pink but delicious, I promise - full recipe at npr.org if you don't want to wait for the book.

A very happy Thanksgiving to you, Bobby Chacko, CEO of Ocean Spray. I'm Susan Stamberg, NPR News. And, you know, Mr. Chacko, I've been doing that recipe, I'd say, for the last 104 years. And we have probably earned you a good deal of money over the years. It occurs to me that it might be time for you to make a nice generous contribution to NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.