Crazy for Cranberries

November 19th, 2017

I recently taught a class on Thanksgiving pies at the Baker’s Pin in Northampton, Massachusetts. Naturally, I had to feature cranberries in at least one pie.

Every year in September I begin calling grocery stores to ask whether cranberries have arrived. Once they do appear on shelves, I go crazy for cranberries. I make sauce. I make pies and tarts. I freeze the berries. I revel in redness.

Cranberries have a lot to recommend them. They are rich in vitamins and antioxidants. New England sailors used to consume them on sea journeys to avoid scurvy. They abound with flavor (albeit flavor that needs a little sweetening!).

And they are simply gorgeous. I view them as the rubies of the Thanksgiving table.

Unlike many other popular fruits, the American cranberry is native to our continent. Native Americans combined ground cranberries with venison to make pemmican, a portable high-energy food.

When English settlers arrived on these shores, they quickly adopted the berries as their own, not just to eat but as medicine. They learned from the original Americans to apply ground cranberries to wounds to keep them from getting infected.

My friend Kathleen Wall, colonial foodways culinarian at Plimoth Plantation, believes that cranberries might have appeared on the table at the first Thanksgiving. She emphatically denies that cranberry sauce was present. It hadn’t yet been invented.

Food writer Hank Shaw dates the first written reference to cranberry sauce to 1808. The increasing popularity of that sauce probably owed a lot to the new availability of reasonably priced sugar in the 19th century. Historian Clifford Foust notes:

“By the second quarter of the nineteenth century, Caribbean sugar had declined in price so far over the preceding century that its consumption had risen enormously….

“Sugar in its several forms made possible the widespread use and enjoyment of formerly shunned fruits and vegetables whose sour tastes were too disagreeable for ordinary use, no matter how healthful they may have been. Sugar also contributed to their preservation in glass or tins….”

In 1912, Marcus Urann, a lawyer turned cranberry grower, decided to try canning cranberry sauce. This innovation boosted cranberry cultivation in New England. In my opinion, however, it represented a step backward in cranberry cuisine.

I blush to admit that my cousin Alan, who often hosts Thanksgiving for our clan, insists on serving canned cranberry sauce. The ridges from the can take him back to his mother’s kitchen. (She was a lovely woman but not much of a cook.)

I always bring homemade sauce to his house and defiantly place it on the table alongside the canned version. Canned sauce lacks the color and flavor that define cranberries to me.

Making basic cranberry sauce couldn’t be easier—and it can be done well in advance of Thanksgiving dinner. I usually just follow the directions on commercial bags of cranberries, although I sometimes add flavorful items like orange or cinnamon.

Below I share a recipe that uses a variant on that sauce, made with chipotles. My cranberry chipotle spread may be served with meat, crackers, or apples. It may also be used to stuff celery. This gorgeous pink substance packs just a little heat.

I will be making it, along with my cranberry-apple crumb pie, this Wednesday, November 22, on Mass Appeal. I’m publishing the recipe in advance in case readers want to make it for Thanksgiving. I’ll post a link to the video after it airs.

Meanwhile, I hope you all enjoy feasting and giving thanks this Thursday. I know I will! I offer thanks to all of you for reading.

Cranberry Chipotle Spread

Ingredients:

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 cups (12 ounces) cranberries
2 to 3 chipotles in adobo from a can (plus a little of the adobo sauce), chopped
1 8-ounce brick cream cheese at room temperature
a few chopped pecans, toasted or candied

Instructions:

Begin early in the day, or even a day ahead. In a saucepan combine the water and the sugar and bring them to a boil. Add the cranberries and the chipotles, and return the mixture to the boil.

Reduce the heat, and boil until the cranberries pop, 5 to 10 minutes. (If the sauce seems too fuzzy, add a tiny amount of butter.)

Remove the mixture from the heat, cool it to room temperature, and then puree the sauce in a blender. Refrigerate it until it is needed.

When you are ready to make your spread, whip the cream cheese using an electric mixer. Beat in some of the chipotle-flavored cranberry sauce to taste. (Start with 1/2 cup and see how you like it.) If you want your spread to taste more of chipotle, stir in more of the adobo sauce.

Refrigerate until ready to use. You will have extra sauce which you can use for more spread or serve on the side of meat or poultry.

Sprinkle the pecans on the spread just before serving. Serves 6.

“Mass Appeal” co-host Danny New and I had fun getting ready for Thanksgiving.

P.S. from Tinky LATER:

Here is the video!

A Belated (but fun!) Halloween

November 2nd, 2017

I don’t get trick or treaters here in the wilds of western Massachusetts, but that didn’t prevent me from enjoying Halloween this year. My house was festooned with my favorite fall decorations on Tuesday. Cocoa the dog reluctantly donned her turtle costume. And I made Halloween treats with my friends on the show Mass Appeal.

Actually, the first recipe we prepared wasn’t a treat; it was a hearty soup I recommend for Halloween night (or any other fall evening). Pam’s Country Ham and Potato Soup (the recipe is here; I shared it a few years ago) is so warming and delicious I don’t want dessert after dining on it.

I did feel the need to feature a treat on the air as well, however, so we made festive sweets from the recipe box of one of my area’s best bakers, Paula Rice of Charlemont. In plastic wrap or a sandwich bag, they’re an ideal hand out for trick-or-treaters. They’re also tasty all fall long. (Paula reports that she hasn’t made them yet this year, but she’s going to!)

The recipe below is Paula’s. Instead of her filling, I used my traditional cream-cheese frosting. Either way, the pies are welcomed by adults and children. They taste like pumpkin, spice, and fall.

Paula’s Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Ingredients:

for the cookies:

1 pound light brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil (I use Canola)
2 eggs
1-3/4 to 2 cups pumpkin puree (freshly cooked and mashed, or a 15-ounce can)
1 teaspoon each cinnamon, cloves, and ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour

for the filling:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 cup marshmallow fluff
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the cookies: Combine the sugar, oil, eggs, pumpkin, and spices in a large bowl, mixing well. Add the baking soda, baking powder, and vanilla, mixing well. Stir in the flour 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Lightly grease baking sheets or line them with parchment or silicone. Drop rounded 2-tablespoon portions of dough onto the sheets.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are firm. (A slight indentation where your finger tests them is allowable.)

Cool the cookies completely; then get ready to fill.

Beat together the filling ingredients, and spread them between whoopie layers. If you’re NOT handing these out to children in bags, feel free to decorate the tops as well.

This recipe makes about 20 filled pies. If you wish, you may make your whoopie pies bigger or smaller than indicated. (Paula likes small ones.)

If you make them bigger, you may have to cook them a little longer; smaller, a little less time.

And now the videos:

Tinky Makes Pam’s Country Ham and Potato Soup on Mass Appeal

Tinky Makes Paula’s Pumpkin Whoopie Pies on Mass Appeal

Even More Apples

October 20th, 2017

The weather outside is getting nippy in Massachusetts—but I’m keeping the house warm with food and laughter. It’s still apple month so I have stocked up on crisp, local apples and sweet cider.

I love the variety of apples available at my local orchards. Last week at Clarkdale Fruit Farms I sampled a new (to me) apple, the Esopus Spitzenburg. I first fell in love with the name—and then with the flavor.

This heirloom variety was one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apples, according to apple grower Ben Clark. Our third president did have good taste.

The Monticello website quotes A.J. Downing, whom it dubs “America’s foremost nineteenth century pomologist” (another great term) on this apple. Downing called the Esopus Spitzenburg “a handsome, truly delicious apple … unsurpassed as a dessert fruit” and considered it “the first of apples.”

I have a lot of apples in the house—but next time I go to Clarkdale I’m going to pick up a bag of Mr. Jefferson’s apples. I have a feeling they would be great for cooking as well as eating.

Meanwhile, on Mass Appeal this week I cooked with what I had in the house: cider and honey-crisp apples.

Franklin County’s annual Cider Days are on the horizon so I made a pot roast with sweet cider.

In cool weather my mind frequently turns to pot roast. I have written before about my go-to pot roast, but this version is also appealing, simultaneously sweet and savory.

After the pot roast, I looked ahead to my favorite holiday, Halloween, with caramel apples festooned with chocolate and other goodies. King Arthur Flour generously sent me both caramel and chocolate. I invited small neighbors over to pre-test the apple recipe below, and they were hugely enthusiastic. So were the youthful hosts on Mass Appeal.

The video below doesn’t show Danny New dumping nuts and sprinkles on our apples (he dumped after the cameras were turned off), but those embellishments are a fun part of any apple decoration.

My Facebook friend Nancy gently admonished me for giving the small neighbors chocolate and sprinkles rather than just nuts—but they made that decision themselves. The nuts, although delicious, are a more adult garnish. 

Whether you’re a sprinkle person or a nut person, do try these recipes. Happy apple month!

Cider Pot Roast

Feel free to add more liquid and spices if you like lots of juice in your pot roast—and maybe to add carrots after the first hour of cooking. Carrots are in season right now, and they complement the other flavors in this dish nicely.

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups cider
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 whole cloves
1 3-to-4-pound pot roast
flour as needed
canola oil as needed

Instructions:

Combine the cider, the sugar, the salt, the cinnamon, the ginger, and the cloves. Pour this marinade over the beef, and let it stand, covered, in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Turn and baste from time to time. Remove the roast from the marinade; sprinkle it with flour.

Heat the oil, and brown the meat in it in a pot or Dutch oven. Lower the heat, add the marinade, and cover tightly. Simmer for 3 hours. After the first hour, be sure to turn the roast every half hour or so, and to add more cider if the meat looks a bit dry. When ready to serve, thicken the gravy with flour if desired. Serve with noodles. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

 

Caramel Apples Plus

Ingredients:

3/4 pound caramel (or as much as you like) in block form
1/3 pound milk chocolate, cut up
1/3 pound white chocolate, cut up
4 medium apples
festive seasonal sprinkles, chopped nuts, or any other topping you like (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 200, and bring water to a boil in the bottom of a double boiler. Place the caramel in the top of the double boiler, and place the milk chocolate and white chocolate in oven-proof bowls.

If your caramel needs it (the package should tell you), add a little water to it. Melt the caramel in the double boiler over low heat, stirring occasionally. While it is melting put sticks in the cores of the apples.

When the caramel has melted, place the bowls of chocolate in the oven. Dip the apples in the caramel, gently swirling to cover them. Place the dipped apples on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Take the chocolates out of the oven, and stir to confirm that they have melted. (Melting them takes 10 to 15 minutes in the oven.) Use a spoon to drizzle the chocolate over the apples.

If you wish for extra bling, throw a few sprinkles or nuts on top of the apples before the chocolate hardens. Then wait for it to harden before digging in. (Waiting is the hard part!) Makes 4 delicious apples. These are best consumed cut into segments.

And now the videos:

Tinky Makes Cider Pot Roast on Mass Appeal

Tinky Makes Caramel Apples Plus on Mass Appeal

Cooking with the Dear Departed

October 4th, 2017

from left to right: My Mother, Buddy Carlin (above), My Father, and Bobbie Carlin

I’m writing this on October 4, a day that resonates with me for its connections to people I loved who are now dead. My father died on this day. His friend (indeed, a great friend to our whole family) Buddy Carlin was born on this day.

This time of year marks yet another special anniversary for me. My late mother Jan, a.k.a. Taffy, would have turned 99 last week!

So when I appeared on Mass Appeal on Tuesday, I made a memorial dish: Taffy’s succotash. My mother adored this dish, which came into season around her birthday. My father and Buddy enjoyed it as well.

I don’t feel morbid remembering people by making foods they savored. To me, this act is a tangible (and delicious!) way in which I can pay tribute to, and recall, them.

The other dish I made on TV wasn’t one of their favorites, but they would have loved it. It was a seasonal sundae using fresh apples and the sauce King Arthur Flour recently dubbed “the ingredient of the year.” Or maybe the ingredient of the season (I can’t find the press release from KAF, but I know I read it): boiled cider (a.k.a. cider syrup).

As you can probably gather from the name, this is cider boiled down and down and down until it reaches a syrupy consistency. The process is rather like making maple syrup. I’ll learn more about it soon when I visit the place from which the syrup I used originated, Wheel-View Farm in Shelburne, Massachusetts. I’ll report back in after my trip there.

Meanwhile, here is the sundae recipe. (The succotash recipe may be found here.) I hope you all have as much fun remembering loved ones as I do….

As you can see, I was pretty cheerful while remembering the dear departed.

Apple Sundaes with Candied Walnuts

Ingredients:

for the candied walnuts:

1 cup walnut halves or pieces
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
a splash of maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt

for the apple sundae topping:

6 crisp apples
2 tablespoons butter (plus more if needed)
6 tablespoons cider syrup (plus more if desired)
1 pinch salt

Instructions:

First, candy the nuts. (Do this several hours before you want to serve your sundaes.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, and grease the foil with cooking spray.

Place the nuts on the pan. Roast them until they begin to smell nice, about 10 minutes, stirring twice.

While the nuts are toasting, melt the butter. Stir in the brown sugar, the syrup, the cinnamon, and the salt.

When the nuts come out of the oven, toss them in the butter mixture. When they are evenly coated, return them to the baking sheet, and bake for another 10 minutes, again stirring twice.

Let the nuts cool completely on the baking sheet before transferring them to an airtight container.

When you are ready to make your sundae sauce, sauté the apples in the butter until they begin to caramelize, adding a little more butter if you need to.

Add the cider syrup, and toss to coat the apples. Turn off the heat, stir in the salt, and serve over ice cream with glazed walnuts on top.

Serves 4 to 6.

And now, the videos:

Tinky Makes Taffy’s Succotash on Mass Appeal

Tinky Makes Apple Sundaes on Mass Appeal

Apples on My Mind

September 11th, 2017

I have apples on the brain these days. They’re omnipresent on my road, brightening the neighborhood like Christmas ornaments on their trees. They’re also abundant this year at orchards again; new flavors seem to ripen every week. I eat at least one a day. I should be doing this because apples are healthy. I’m actually doing it just because I love them. My dog Cocoa smells the juice of recently picked apples whenever I bite into one and patiently (well, almost patiently) waits for a bite or two.

Apples will be my theme when I teach my next class at the Baker’s Pin next week. On the evening of Thursday, September 21, I’ll return to Northampton, Massachusetts, to create a whole meal with apples, from appetizer to dessert.

In fact, I recently devised one of the recipes below for that very class—my Apple Gruyère Pizza. When I made it on Mass Appeal last week, the pizza was completely consumed before the end of the hour-long show.

The swamp cake that follows is an applesauce cake I made years ago for the birthday of one of my favorite people in the world, my former roommate Alice from Dallas. Alice dubbed it “swamp cake” because of its tendency to swamp down in the middle. The swamping didn’t bother either of us; we just applied a little extra cream-cheese frosting in the swampy area.

If you know anyone in western Massachusetts who would like to join me at the Baker’s Pin, please tell him/her/them to register here. Slots are still open.

Enjoy the crunch, taste, and versatility of apples as we approach fall!

Apple Gruyère Pizza

If you want a lighter pizza or are serving vegetarians, brown the onion in extra-virgin olive oil instead of bacon fat. (Add a small amount of salt and pepper when you add the apple and garlic.) For vegetarians, omit the bacon on top; for light lovers, cut down on the bacon on top.

Ingredients:

6 slices of bacon
1 large onion (preferably sweet), thinly sliced
1 medium clove garlic, slivered
1 large apple, cut into thin chunks
1 medium pizza crust (about 1 pound)
extra-virgin olive oil as needed
2 cups (generous) grated Gruyère
chives to taste

Instructions:

A couple of hours before you are ready to make the pizza, take your pizza crust out of the refrigerator (if you are using a commercial crust; if your crust is homemade it won’t need cooling), place it on a greased baking sheet, and let it rest. After an hour and a half or so, preheat the oven to 475 degrees, lightly grease the baking sheet, and stretch the crust out on top. If you are paranoid like me, you may want to line the baking sheet with parchment, foil, or silicone.

In a large skillet fry the bacon. Remove it from the pan and place it on paper towels to drain. Set aside. Leave enough of the bacon fat in the pan to cover the bottom of the pan lightly. (You won’t need the rest of the bacon fat.) Toss in the onion slices, and cook them over low heat until they begin to caramelize (probably 20 minutes to 1/2 hour).

Throw in the garlic and the apple chunks and cook the mixture for another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Sprinkle most of the cheese on top of the pizza crust. Sprinkle the onion mixture on top (it won’t make a heavy topping), and top with the rest of the cheese. Bake the pizza until it looks done, 10 to 14 minutes.

While the pizza is baking, crumble the bacon and chop the chives.

When the pizza comes out of the oven, sprinkle the chives and bacon pieces on top. Let the pizza rest for a minute or two; then slice it. Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as an appetizer.

Swamp Cake

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
1/2 brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup applesauce (preferably homemade)
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 cup flour
1 cup raisins

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch-square pan.

Cream together the butter and the sugars. Add the applesauce. Beat well; then beat in the egg. Beat in the baking soda, salt, and spices. Stir in the flour, followed by the raisins.

Spoon the batter into the pan, and bake until the cake tests done, about 25 minutes. Cool and eat plain or frost. Serves 8.

And now, the videos:

Tinky Makes Apple Gruyère Pizza on Mass Appeal

 

Tinky Makes Swamp Cake on Mass Appeal