Friday, November 21, 2014

Tart Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce should not come out of a can. That is all. Period.

Unless you're my Mom, who appreciated the convenience of canned foods, frozen foods, and ready-made gravy, or at least those little little powdered packets you mix with water. She even used instant potatoes! It wasn't that she didn't know how to make a scratch gravy from pan drippings, it's just that sometimes she was in too big of a hurry to bother. Unless it was Thanksgiving dinner, when Mom pulled out the stops and made gravy from the turkey drippings and got one of us kids to peel a whole 10 pound bag of potatoes for the big feast. She also had to make her pumpkin pies from scratch, using pumpkin pulp that she had boiled down in a big pot. Mom declared that this was the best kind of pumpkin pie there was. As long as she put enough sugar and spice and whipped cream on it, we didn't argue. Anyway, I don't ever remember Mom making cranberry sauce. I do, however, remember puncturing one end of the can of cranberry sauce and removing the entire lid from the other end so the jellied sauce could slide out in one whole cylinder. 

When I first got married and was learning to cook, I vowed to use fresh ingredients whenever possible. I always kept my refrigerator stocked with carrots, celery, broccoli, onions, potatoes, lettuce. I learned how to put together a lot of recipes like enchiladas and spaghetti and lasagna using some fresh ingredients, combined with canned sauces and dried herbs. I did use a lot of those Shilling or McCormick spice packets for gravy and spaghetti sauce and enchilada sauce in the beginning, but over time, mostly after I had accumulated dozens of different spices, I began making my own sauce blends. Eventually I started using fresh cilantro and parsley. Then one day I went outside and cut a few spears of rosemary from the hedge and skewered chicken on it and roasted it. That was a life-changing experience if I ever had one!

Fast-forward many years later when my second husband and I were cooking our first Thanksgiving turkey together. We had both become fans of the Food Network channel and liked trying out new recipes. We wanted to try brining the turkey. Instead of stuffing the turkey with dressing, we filled the cavity with rosemary and onions and lemons for aromatics and made some other side dishes like mashed sweet potatoes with pineapple and maple syrup, roasted green beans with lemon zest, garlic-mashed potatoes and pan gravy. Then we made our own cranberry sauce from fresh, whole berries. I used a recipe that called for maple syrup, orange peel and lime juice. It was the most delicious and memorable cranberry sauce I had ever tasted! The crazy thing was, that it was so easy to make. You just throw all the ingredients into a pot and let it boil. I vowed from then on that I would always make my own cranberry sauce to serve with turkey or fowl, which would also be brined from now on....we couldn't quit picking at that turkey!

For today's version of cranberry sauce, I simply scoured the fridge for what I had on hand. I found a lemon, some pomegranate seeds, and some pineapple tidbits in juice. After I rinsed the fresh cranberries, I dumped them in a pot and poured everything else on top of it, then added about a cup of water and a cup of sugar and brought it to a boil. After my first taste, which was inspiring, I added a dash of salt, a dollop of maple pancake syrup, and about a half a teaspoon of cinnamon. It was tart, tangy, lemony and cinnamony all in one, with just a touch of sweetness...perfect for an aromatic, savory turkey sauce.

It made enough for two pint jars, so I am giving one to my landlord and taking the other to Thanksgiving dinner at my daughter's house next week. It should keep in the fridge just fine for several weeks, but I am kind of afraid it's not gonna last that long! I keep tasting it!

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