Cranberries Uncovered: Hillbilly Cake, relish and cheese

Vintage recipe boxes contain many traditional recipes. Here are two that call for cranberries. The Hillbilly Cake is dense but moist and delicious. Best eaten with a glass of cold milk or imported black tea. The second recipe, Cranberry Relish, is refreshing, fruity and compliments both turkey and pork.

hillbillycake2 005Hillbilly Cake: 1980s

  • 1 cup dried cranberries or raisins or combination of both
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1½ teaspoons allspice
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup chopped pecans


  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons evaporated milk
  • ½ cup coconut
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped

hillbillycake 004Combine ingredients, mix well, and spread over batter. (See directions below).

Boil the first 6 ingredients for 2 minutes; add flour, soda and pecans. Mix well. Pour into a 10inch Bundt or tube pan. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven. Spread with frosting and bake 20 minutes longer.

Not sure why this is called Hillbilly Cake but many variations are out there in the recipe world. Similar recipes use candied fruit, raisins and substitute nutmeg and teaspoon cloves for allspice.

Cranberries are truly native to North American. Native American Indians first used them in a variety of ways but the most popular was pemmican, a combination of crushed cranberries, dried deer meat and melted fat. A tasty treat in its day, it was also used as a dye and as medicine to treat arrow wounds. The colonists quickly adopted the fruit and cranberries remain a traditional side dish for Thanksgiving to this day.

Several excellent cranberry cheeses are available from specialty stores this holiday season. The cranberry adds tang and sweetness to the cheese. English Wensleydale with cranberry is one brand I’ve found locally. Creamy texture; serve with crackers.

I found this recipe in my California recipe box. Fresh tasting and a light condiment; goes well with turkey and all the trimmings.

Cranberry Relish: Alliene Coday, November 1980

  • 1 red apple, cored and seeded
  • 1 whole orange, including peel
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 small pkg. fresh cranberries


Let stand for several hours.

Use the food processer instead of “grinding” to form chunks but not a puree.

Variation: add ¼ cup pomegranate arils or add ¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans for a crunch.

Gravy Hints: pale gravy may be browned by adding a bit of instant coffee straight from the jar…no bitter taste either.

If you brown the flour well before adding to the liquid when making gravy, you will avoid pale or lumpy gravy.

A different way of browning flour is to put it in a custard cup placed beside meat in the oven. Once the meat is done, the flour will be nice and brown.

A small amount of baking soda added to gravy will eliminate excess grease.

Lumpless gravy can be your triumph if you add a pinch of salt to the flour before mixing it with water. Treasured Recipes, 1982