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Cranberries: cooked or raw? November 21, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. It seems to me that there are two kinds of people when it comes to Thanksgiving cranberries, those who like them cooked in cranberry sauce, and those who like them raw in cranberry relish. (There are also all of us who love dried cranberries, aka “craisins,” and folks like our friend Ben who grew up with the cranberry jelly in a can and have remained faithful, serving up a big slice for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Fortunately, he also likes my from-scratch cranberry sauce.)

I also started out with cranberry jelly in a can; real cranberry sauce, which my Mama made every year, was considered too bitter for a child’s unsophisticated palate. I have to agree: To this day, I cringe every time I see a recipe for cranberry sauce that simply includes cranberries and sugar or cranberries, orange rind and sugar. It’s enough to make your teeth ache just thinking about it.

But worse still, from my perspective, is cranberry relish, that ground-up concoction of raw cranberries, oranges and sugar. Yikes!!! It’s so bitter, and the texture is all wrong. Cooked cranberry sauce made right is succulent and delicious, the perfect complement to turkey and dressing. Raw cranberry relish is harsh, the absolute opposite of what Thanksgiving cranberries should be. (I’d make an exception if you made raw cranberry and horseradish relish, so it was a spicy, savory accompaniment to the rich Thanksgiving fare. Otherwise, eeeewwwwww.) And yet raw cranberry relish has innumerable fans.

For me, cooked cranberry sauce is king, and I’ve modified a recipe by Dorie Greenspan to make the most luscious cranberry sauce known to man. It’s so easy, and so good, it would be a sin not to at least try it. So here you are:

                Silence’s Ultimate Cranberry Sauce

2 12-ounce bags fresh cranberries

1 12-ounce jar apricot preserves

16 ounces orange juice

1/2 cup diced dried apricots

1/4 cup Grand Marnier

2 cinnamon sticks

heaping teaspoon ginger paste or 2 slices diced crystallized or minced fresh ginger

Rinse and drain cranberries and put them in a large, heavy pot (I love my LeCreuset Dutch oven). Pour in orange juice and Grand Marnier. Add diced apricots, apricot preserves, cinnamon sticks, and ginger. Stir well to mix, then cook over low heat until cranberries “pop” and mixture thickens. Allow to cool, then pour into containers and refrigerate until needed. Keeps very well. Serves 12.  

No bitterness here, but it’s not cloyingly sweet, either. Everyone should love this sauce, from toddlers to centenarians.

As for those who fall in the raw-cranberry camp, I invite you to speak up and defend yourselves! I’d as soon eat raw cornmeal or raw okra as raw cranberries. Why does raw cranberry relish hold appeal for you? Inquiring minds would really like to know.

                  ‘Til next time,



Thanksgiving: Cranberry sauce and beyond. November 22, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here, kicking off a week of Thanksgiving recipes with that classic, cranberry sauce. Our friend Ben and I grew up in households where our mamas lovingly made cranberry sauce for every Thanksgiving and Christmas. Their recipes were pretty similar—fresh cranberries, oranges, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and cloves, cooked up into a glittering but bitter dish served up in elegant cut-crystal dishes. Yes, they looked gorgeous. No, we didn’t like them. We’d take that canned cranberry jelly any day.

So, how do you make cranberry sauce without making it bitter? I saw a recipe in the Parade magazine last week that I thought would do the trick, from noted food author Dorie Greenspan. I plan to try it this Thanksgiving (with the changes I’ve noted in the recipe). You might want to as well.

          Dorie Greenspan’s Cranberry Sauce

2 bags (12 oz. each) fresh cranberries [Note from Silence: I have read emphatic assertions that frozen cranberries are actually better than fresh cranberries in cranberry sauce. I didn’t even realize there were frozen cranberries, but I might try them if I find them and see what I think.]

1 cup orange juice

1 cup apricot jam

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. powdered ginger [Note from Silence: No way! I’d mince either fresh or crystallized ginger and add it instead.]

1/4 pound dried apricots, finely diced

[Note from Silence: I’d at least think about adding 1/2 cup of dried cranberries—aka “craisins”—or dried tart cherries, too. And I know plenty of folks add a splash of Grand Marnier in their cranberry sauce. We’ve never done it, but can’t hurt, might help should you choose to try it.]

Stir all the ingredients together in a large, heavy pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the berries pop and the sauce starts to thicken—it will thicken much more as it cools—about 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature, cover, and chill.

Okay, sounds easy and good, right? But you might want to halve the amount—Dorie claims this recipe serves 20. (It certainly wouldn’t here! We love our cranberry sauce.)

 FYI, we posted lots of great Thanksgiving recipes and resources back in November 2008. To access them, use our search bar to look for the ones that speak to you: “Putting some heat in your Thanksgiving celebration,” “Curried pumpkin soup,” “Try this with turkey,” “Cookbooks to be thankful for, parts 1-3,” Silence’s Chili Surprise,” “Fabulous easy salad dressing,” “A good day for baking cookies,” “Pumpkin chili, glazed carrots, and sweet potato souffle,” “Time for pumpkin bread!”, “Picking pumpkins,” and “Silence’s Amazing Cranberry Stuffing.”

Meanwhile, keep an eye on this site for recipes and lore that will take you to Turkey Day and on towards Christmas! And please, we’d love it if you’d share some of your own favorite Thanksgiving recipes with us.

          ‘Til next time,