Posts Tagged ‘Cranberries’

Crazy for Cranberries

Sunday, 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.

Cranberry Shrub

Monday, November 7th, 2016

shrubmadeupweb

November greetings! Naturally, I’m already thinking about Thanksgiving.

Years ago I made what I called cranberry vinegar—basically, my usual strawberry vinegar with cranberries (I had to heat the vinegar a bit in order to get the cranberries to start blending with it). It was fabulous in salad dressings, and a friend loved mixing it with soda water as a drink.

Unfortunately, it gelled within a day or two; the pectin in the cranberries just couldn’t restrain itself.

So—here’s another version, from the book Colonial Spirits by Steven Grasse (2016, Abrams Books, recipe used with permission).

I have to admit that mine was a LITTLE tastier; both the cranberry and the sugar flavors came across more strongly.

But this one won’t gel up on you! It will beautify your Thanksgiving table and give your guests a refreshing beverage. I made it on my final fall appearance on Mass Appeal last week, along with my favorite key-lime pie, adding a little cranberry sauce to make the pie more seasonal.more-of-zee-pieweb

The Shrub

Ingredients:

3 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups water

Instructions:

Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan, and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the berries pop and become tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, and cool slightly. Working in batches, puree the cranberry mixture in a food processor. Don’t over-process the mixture.

Transfer the mixture to a cheesecloth-lined sieve and strain, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids.

Store the shrub in a airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Makes about 1 quart.

To make a refreshing beverage, pour 2 ounces of shrub into a tall glass with ice. Top with 1 cup soda water, and stir to combine.

And now the videos:

Key-Lime Pie

Cranberry Shrub

Apple-Cranberry Crumble

Monday, October 31st, 2016

apple-cran-crumble-web

Regular readers may have noticed that I LOVE crumbles. I also love the fall combination of apples and cranberries. The textures of these fruits are complementary, and together in dishes like this one they perk up a dreary season (we have ALREADY had snow in western Massachusetts!) with color and flavor.

I highly recommend this dish for Thanksgiving—easier than pie, and definitely thanks-inducing.

But you can even eat it for Halloween! Happy Trick or Treating to all….

do-not-drinkweb

 

The Crumble

Ingredients:

3 cups apple slices
2 cups cranberries
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter
1/2 cup brown sugar

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the fruit in a 9-inch pie pan. (Make sure you have a cookie sheet under the pan; the fruit can get juicy in the oven!) Add the 4 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. Toss if you can.

Combine the flour, oats, and salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or your fingers. Add the brown sugar and mix again until crumbly.

Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the fruit, pressing down lightly. Bake until the crumble is golden brown and crisp (about 30 minutes more or less, depending on your oven). Serves 6 to 8. The crumble may be served warm or cold.

Here I make the crumble on Mass Appeal.

Apple-Cranberry Salsa

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Photo Courtesy of Susan Hagen

Photo Courtesy of Susan Hagen

            This colorful salsa is adapted from a recipe published online by the Washington Apple Commission. For more recipes and nutritional information, visit http://www.bestapples.com/Recipes.

            I happened to have some frozen cranberries in the house so I used them to make fresh cranberry sauce, which always tastes better (and usually uses better ingredients) than the canned version. If your freezer isn’t stocked and cranberries are out of season, however, you may use canned sauce.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

the juice of 1 large lime (or 2 small ones)

2 cups chopped apple (2 large apples, more or less; core them, but don’t peel them)

1 cup cranberry sauce, preferably homemade

1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, carefully stemmed, seeded and chopped (if you like things spicy, use more; if you don’t, use a milder pepper)

several sprigs of fresh cilantro, chopped

1 pinch salt

Directions:
            In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, and lime juice. Bring the liquid to a boil, and stir in half of the chopped apple pieces.

            Return the mixture to the boil, cover the pan, reduce the heat, and simmer until the apples almost soften (this will happen very quickly, in about 5 minutes). Mash the apples until they are soft but still have a little texture. Remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the cranberry sauce. Let cool for 10 minutes.

            Stir in the remaining apple plus the onion, pepper, cilantro, and salt. Let the mixture sit for at least half an hour to allow the flavors to blend. Serve with tortilla chips or as a condiment to accompany meat, vegetables, or fish. You may refrigerate any leftovers for up to 3 days. Makes about 2-1/2 cups.