Could someone please let me know how it is already the end of November? Christmas music is blaring and the tree is decorated, but after back to back weeks in Mexico and San Francisco, I’m mentally barely at Thanksgiving. Sure, I ate my fill of Thanksgiving food, but suddenly the weather has taken a turn back towards fall, and I’m wearing a vest and stepping on crunchy leaves and just now thinking of Christmas shopping. To add to it, this week Chris and I are headed to New York so I can pretend I’m in Culinary School for a few days at the Culinary Institute of America (more on that later this week)! What all this boils down to, is that I need to catch up quickly to Christmas or else it will be New Years and I’ll be setting out cookies for Santa as my family counts down to 2018! Holiday parties are looming and so this year I’m looking to something easy, delicious, and most importantly QUICK.
I came across a version of this Cranberry Jalapeño Dip on Pinterest back when it was just starting out as a baby website you had to explain to your mom (“it’s like a PIN board– get it? It’s for IDEAS!). The year I found this recipe, I had inexplicably been invited to (not even joking) 4(!) Christmas Cookie Swaps, and each one requested a pitch in appetizer. I needed something that was savory, preferably tart (something has to cut through all those cookies!), and that didn’t take a ton of time. This dip checked all the boxes. I’ve been making it every year since, adjusting and tweaking it to my own personal taste. I’ve passed out the recipe countless times– and at this point it’s expected that I show up to Christmas Eve with my “spicy cranberry stuff.”
The dip itself is two parts. One part cream cheese (everyone’s favorite at Christmas), and one part cranberry jalapeño salsa. It combines tart fresh cranberries, spicy jalapeño, cilantro, sugar and lime juice which acts as the perfect foil when combined with a smear of cream cheese and a salty cracker. The best part (BY FAR) of this dip, is that you can make a jar of the salsa, and every time a holiday party beckons, or a spontaneous holiday happy hour pops up– all you need is fresh cream cheese and crackers. The salsa keeps incredibly well in the fridge, upwards of two weeks, without compromising taste or texture. In fact, I would venture to say it gets a little better as it sits!
When the party invites (Hopefully not cookie swaps. That was exhausting) start rolling in, keep this one in mind. It’s the perfect no stress, ready in 5 minutes, multiple use appetizer that is made for the holiday season.
Cranberry Jalapeño Party Dip
Makes enough salsa for about 4 parties’ worth! (also easily halved). Add cream cheese and crackers as needed!
One bag (12 oz) fresh cranberries*
1 jalapeño pepper, roughly chopped (stems and seeds removed if you can’t handle the heat– but with the cream cheese offsetting the spice, I strongly suggest you leave most of them in)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp lime zest
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 C (roughly a handful) of fresh cilantro
8 oz cream cheese
crackers of your choosing (I like Wheat Thins chips!)
In a food processor, combine whole cranberries, jalapeño pepper, sugar, lime zest and juice, cumin, salt and cilantro. Pulse to combine, scraping occasionally to ensure even chopping. Continue pulsing until texture is finely minced. A few bigger pieces left behind are just fine!
At this point, the mixture will look pretty grainy, but that’s just because the juice and sugar haven’t worked their magic yet. Transfer mixture to a medium sized mixing bowl stir once more to combine, and let sit for 25-30 min before serving to allow cranberries to macerate.
When ready to serve, spread cream cheese brick evenly on a shallow dish/plate. Using a slotted spoon (it’s super juicy at this point, so it’s just a little tidier of you use the slotted spoon), transfer cranberry mixture to the top of the cream cheese. Garnish with cilantro if you care to, and serve with salty crackers! Happy Holidays!