Tuesday, October 28, 2008

cranberries for thanksgiving..fresh, frozen or canned?

one of the unexpected benefits of starting this blog is meeting (via cyberspace) some amazing people from all over the world..my blog led me to twitter....which introduced me to some really cool foodies, chefs, fellow bloggers, eco-friendly sites, wine experts, etc..i confess, i sometimes lose track of time reading everyone's tweets..there are always a number of very interesting topics. one of my favorite twitter friends is dianne from dianne's dishes. dianne's blog carries the theme..fresh-food-fun..and she shares stories of her life, her husband jamison and her daughter alexis... mainly she shares delicious recipes and beautiful photographs of the process, all the while answering the question.. "what's for dinner?"

i was thrilled when dianne agreed to guest blog as part of the napa farmhouse 1885™ thirty day thanksgiving memories series...i love her stories of thanksgivings with her family in tennessee..learning to cook...the comfort cooking brings her...and her quest to balance old and new traditions. i confess, however, to laughing out loud at her description of canned cranberry sauce..the sound it makes when plunking out of the can..and the weird shape it retains.... i think everyone in america can relate..and, while i did not intend this series to be all about cranberry, (two posts, 2 cranberry recipes)..the more i think about it, cranberries really could be considered the quintessential thanksgiving day item..i mean we do eat turkey throughout the year..but how often does cranberry make an appearance?

so, from a diane with one "n" to one with two...happy thanksgiving!..dianne, thank you so much for your story..and for the rest of you..check out the dianne's dishes blog...you will be really glad you did...

what are your favorite cranberry recipes? please share in the comments section of this post...


diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"

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Growing up in Tennessee Thanksgiving was a big deal at my house. My mom is one of five children (the only girl) and for as long as I can remember Thanksgiving meant her family was coming to visit us for the day. We didn’t really live that far apart (about 120 miles) but Thanksgiving was one of the few times during the year that we actually spent quality time together. Not everyone was able to attend every year, but we always had a crowd and always had a lot of fun.

My mom would get up early and get the turkey started. My sister and I would drag ourselves out of bed around 8 am and our relatives would start arriving around 10:30 am. Lunch was normally around noon and really the whole day was structured chaos, but it was a warm, loving family time that I have fond memories of to this day.

As we grew older we began to help out more in the kitchen. In fact I have always been a little shy, even around family, and the kitchen was the perfect place for me. I felt somewhat sheltered and safe there, which is a feeling that continues for me to this day. If I’m nervous about something, nine times out of ten you’ll find me in the kitchen. Looking back on it now, this probably started way back then in my Mom’s kitchen.

As the years passed I was able to help more and more. By the time I was in high school I was the official turkey carver. This wasn’t so much an honor for me as it was a chance to nibble on the turkey before it was time for lunch. My sister and cousin helped me nibble too. It became somewhat of a tradition for us and we often talk about that tradition on the rare occasions that we are together today.

My mom put out quite a spread…Turkey, cornbread dressing, peas, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, salads, desserts, yeast rolls, deviled eggs, corn casserole…The list goes on and on! There was also cranberry sauce from a can. It was a given that it would be there, and I’m not really sure that many people ate it other than my sister, but it was always lurking about. You just expected to see the cranberry sauce sitting among the other dishes, even if you didn’t plan to eat any of it.

As all of the “kids” grew up and got married the tradition of assembling at my Mom’s house for Thanksgiving continued. Sadly though when the “kids” starting having kids of their own about six or seven years ago the tradition ended and it’s been several years since we all gathered together at my Mom’s house. My parents still spend the day in Tennessee, usually on their own, while now that my sister and I both live in Maryland and we spend the day together, along with Jamison’s family, where I do most of the cooking.

On the first year that I knew my sister was going to attend my Thanksgiving celebration I was dreading the whole cranberry sauce in a can routine. I have to admit the sound of it coming out of the can, not to mention the fact that it retains the shape of the can itself, has always kind of creeped me out just a little bit. I set out to come up with something that could take the place of the gloppy can version, which was easier said than done given I’m not a fan of cranberries myself.

I was watching the Food Network one day and one of their “chefs” (I can’t remember which one now, but it was one of the males) made a cranberry sauce using fresh cranberries, orange, sugar and tarragon and I was immediately intrigued, though I’ll readily admit my first thought was “The tarragon has got to go!” So I played around with some combos and my cranberry sauce was born! It’s really an homage to my sister since I’m not a fan of cranberries, but she’s a big fan. She says it’s even good frozen right out of the freezer! You’ll have to take her word on that one I’m afraid, but even I don’t mind a bite or two of cranberries in this form.

Though it looks difficult, this cranberry sauce is actually quick, easy and delicious. It definitely adds a bright note to your holiday table (I make it at Christmas some times too) and as an added bonus you can say goodbye to round can shaped cylinders of cranberry sauce…Real food is not supposed to do that! It’s a win win situation all around.

What You’ll Need:
3 pounds of fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over
1 cup of organic cane sugar (Note: Regular white sugar will work, but I prefer organic cane sugar because it is a little less refined.)
The zest of 2 oranges
2 cups of freshly squeezed orange juice (Note: Bottled will work too, but the fresh juice really gives it a kick.)

In a large stock pot add cranberries, sugar, orange zest and orange juice and stir to coat. Heat over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cranberries begin to pop and the mixture thickens. (You’ll actually hear the cranberries pop…It’s not loud like pop corn, but there is a definitely popping sound. The mixture will resemble a chunky jelly when it’s done.)

Once the mixture thickens slightly remove it from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Place in an airtight container and chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

You can make this mixture well in advance of when you want it and keep it in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for months. The batch I made for this entry is actually in the freezer to be used this year at Thanksgiving.

When ready to serve you can serve it right out of the refrigerator by simply placing it in a serving dish and putting it right on the table. If you have frozen the mixture then let it thaw in the fridge and then serve.

How easy is that? If you like cranberry sauce then try this…I think you’ll love it!

story and photographs from dianne's dishes...


Dianne said...

Thanks for having me blog today! I can't wait to read all of the Thanksgiving memories to come! :)

billie said...

Now I am going to have to decide which cranberry recipe to use. They both look delicious.

Allie said...

Wow! Those cranberries look amazing! I'll have to make some this year!

bethany said...

I discovered your blog through Dianne's Dishes. I will visit often.