There may be a few misguided families who will chow down on lamb with mint jelly for Thanksgiving, but for the rest of us it's inviolable tradition all the way: roast turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and weird stuff like sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, green bean casserole with funky cream of mushroom soup, and, last but not least, cranberry sauce.

Of all these foodstuffs, it's the cranberries that are probably the best for us. Recent studies have shown that cranberries, consumed in their whole form, are loaded with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits. Too bad for those who, like me, prefer their cranberry sauce in jellied form, preferably served sliced, with the lines from the can as its sole ornamentation.

No one really can say why it's cranberries we serve along with the Thanksgiving bird. It may simply be that the scarlet fruits are harvested in autumn, just in time for the annual holiday. But whatever the reason, the tart flavor of cranberry is a perfect foil for rich, buttery turkey and their crimson color brightens up what could be a very neutral brown and white plate.

The one problem I have with cranberries is their very aggressive flavor. Whatever you combine them with, cranberries always come out on top. Forget any recipe that calls for cranberries with pears - the subtle flavor of pear is overwhelmed by that of the acidic and unique cranberry. Ditto cranberry trifle or cranberry-apple pie: cranberry flavor prevails. It has been my experience that any dessert I make with cranberries turns out to taste like a can of cranberry sauce stuck in a pie shell or topped with a cake batter.

But cranberries as spicy condiment are another story. Put those berries up against a strong competing flavor like mustard or jalapeño and somehow the fruit is tamed and becomes more of an equal partner. You can have your sweet sauces, jellied or whole berry, for Thanksgiving dinner, but for the sandwiches on ensuing days, cranberry salsa or cranberry mustard is just the ticket.

C R A N B E R R Y   S A L S A

1 cup water plus liquid from 1 12-oz. jar jalapeños, to make two cups total liquid
2 cups sugar
2 12-oz. packages fresh cranberries
1 12-oz. jar jalapeños, finely chopped
12 cup cilantro, chopped
6 scallions, white and green parts, sliced
juice of one lime
Place water, jalapeño liquid and sugar in a large pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add cranberries, return to boil and gently boil berries for about 10 minutes. Pour into a mixing bowl and stir in remaining ingredients. Fill canning jars and process according to manufacturer's instructions or let cool to room temperature and refrigerate. Makes about five cups.

C R A N B E R R Y   M U S T A R D

1 cup dry mustard
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard seeds
1 cup raspberry vinegar
1 cup fresh cranberries
34 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. honey
12 tsp. each salt and pepper
Mix dry mustard and mustard seeds in medium bowl. Whisk in raspberry vinegar. Cover and let stand overnight at room temperature. Place cranberries in a food processor and run until finely chopped. Whisk sugar and eggs in medium-size metal bowl to blend. Whisk in mustard mixture, cranberries, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and cook for about 45 minutes until thick, scraping down sides of bowl and whisking occasionally. Cool mixture to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate at least one day before using. Bring to room temperature before serving. Makes about 212 cups.