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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,



Putting some heat in your Thanksgiving celebration. November 14, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. At the library recently, I stumbled on a copy of The El Paso Chile Company’s Texas Border Cookbook. Ever on the lookout for flame-throwing recipes for our heat-loving friend and fellow blog contributor, Richard Saunders, I checked it out and brought it home to Hawk’s Haven to investigate. Last night, I finally got a chance to look at it, and I was so impressed by what I found that I bought two used copies on Amazon (it’s out of print), one for me and one for Richard and his girlfriend, Bridget, for Christmas.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner and Christmas not far behind, I thought I’d share their recipe for cranberry relish with you all, so you too can have a chance to heat up the holidays. But first, let’s talk about those holiday cranberries.

In my opinion, when it comes to cranberries, there are three kinds of people: Those who like their cranberries cooked, usually with cloves, cinnamon sticks, sugar, and orange slices; those who like their cranberries raw, chopped and combined with other flavors into a crunchy relish or salad; and those who like their cranberries jellied from a can.

I’ll admit it, our friend Ben and I fall into the third category. We both grew up with those cans of cranberry jelly chilled and sliced on our plates, even as the adults in the family enjoyed the more complicated flavors of the elaborately home-cooked relishes our mothers made. But let’s face it, beneath their knockout flavor, cranberries are bitter. And it takes one sophisticated kid to appreciate bitter. However, there was nothing bitter about those luscious slabs of cranberry jelly, and we ate them like candy. To us, the annual cranberry slabs were as essential to a proper Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner as the turkey, dressing, and mashed potatoes.

These days, our tastes have broadened a bit (along with Ben’s waistline). We also enjoy cooked cranberries during the holidays, and of course we love dried cranberries, alone, baked in cookies or pies, or in trail mix and granola. We drink cranberry juice and spread cranberry marmalade on our biscuits. But we still love our old childhood comfort food best, and we still eat it every single holiday season.

The one thing we’ve never managed to warm up to is raw cranberries. Our parrots love them, and welcome the arrival of this cold-weather treat as much as we welcome its cooked cousins. But eeew, raw cranberries! Bitterness personified. We… just… can’t. And the recipe I’m about to share does indeed use raw cranberries. Maybe the jalapeno offsets the rawness. Maybe the sugar and Triple Sec balance the bitterness. I’ll admit to being intrigued. I’ll have to make it sometime when Richard and Bridget come over this holiday season. Note that the authors recommend it as a side with grilled beef, pork, or chicken year-round. If you try it, let me know what you think!

        Jalapeno-Cranberry Relish

1 12-ounce bag cranberries, picked over, rinsed, and drained

1 large unpeeled navel orange, scrubbed, cut into thin wedges, and seeded

1 medium fresh jalapeno chile, stemmed and chopped

About 1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons Triple Sec

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

In a food processor, in two batches, chop together the cranberries, orange wedges, and jalapeno. In a medium bowl, stir together the cranberry mixture, 3/4 cup of the sugar, the Triple Sec, and the lime juice. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The relish can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. The relish may require additional sugar, to taste, after standing. Serves 6 to 8.

I was really impressed with so many recipes as I paged through this cookbook (“I want to try this! I want to try this!”) that I finally decided I simply had to have my own copy. If you enjoy Southwestern cooking, I suggest that you see if your library has a copy so you can check it out for yourself. But hurry—there were just a few copies left on Amazon!

             ‘Til next time,