Spicy Cranberry Pepper Chutney

My favorite Thanksgiving movie is Pieces of April. It is ugly and unresolvable, and not necessarily a great film, but one I like a lot and watch every year, usually after guests have gone or we’ve come home half drunk on stuffing. It caps the holiday for me, like Santa bringing up the rear of the Macy’s parade. The movie ends with a feast, which is almost as good as a wedding. The audience is witness to the simultaneous action of two groups: a twenty-something punky girl, April, in a dingy downtown Manhattan apartment, and her boyfriend spending all day preparing Thanksgiving dinner with varying degrees of success, and her immediate family, who are driving to the city in their station wagon from the suburbs.

It is revealed that April was problematic, possibly sociopathic as a child. Her father seems more sympathetic to her than her opera singing sister, stoned brother, demented grandma, or the cynical be-wigged mom. The denouement begins with the mother, played with pathos and gallows humor by Patricia Clarkson, who during the course of the journey to New York on Thanksgiving has thrown up, smoked a joint and listened to hip hop, thumbed through a photo album depicting the loss of her breasts to cancer, and given an indicting litany of her eldest daughter’s erratic behavior and lifestyle choices, on the back of a motorcycle, having abandoned her husband and other children in a diner, where they had given up trying to get there.

In the final moments, we see mother and daughter reunited, embracing without words. The last scene is silent, as everyone else figures it out, shows up, gathers around the makeshift table in her living room. They share a meal with an immigrant family who gave April shelter and assistance during her perilous day. It’s shot like a dream sequence or like a memory you know you’re making. It gets me every time. You can’t change the past but you do what you can in the present.

And that’s what this chutney… is all about? I could make a last minute connection between this recipe and the movie I for some reason just recalled and recounted but it would be a forced or hackneyed comparison. So let’s just say this cranberry sauce is like life, simple yet complex, sweet and spicy, beautiful, a bit tart, and doesn’t come out of a can.


Spicy Cranberry Jalapeno Chutney

  • Yield: Serves 4-6 1x


  • 1 bag fresh cranberries
  • 12 jalapeno peppers, seeds and stems removed, finely diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 orange, juice and zest
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup water


  1. In a medium size pot, bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat to very low and let simmer, about 30 minutes. Chill before serving.

Jillian Bedell

Jillian Bedell is a writer and mother living in a farmhouse in Cushing, Maine. She is very good at talking about herself in the third person. She is co-author of Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road.


  1. Thank you , both for this recipe and the story – I looked online for something other than stupid sweet cranberry sauce to make into an appetizer for xmas with all my fresh cranberries, that people keep giving me “because I cook” – try finding something that does not start with cranberry sauce, esp. as I’ve never made cranberry sauce to begin with. You helped me out for something nice for my family, and you look like a cool chick, so, thanks! And merry Christmas!

  2. This sounds awesome! Can this recipe be canned? Would love to give as gifts and I’m always looking for recipes ! Thank you for sharing!!
    Warm regards,

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