Monday, October 31, 2011

With Thanksgiving less than a month away, it’s time to sharpen your carving knife, make room for the turkey in your freezer, and start planning your family feast.

Most likely turkey and all the trimmings will include cranberries in some shape or form. Some may prefer the old fashioned jellied cranberry sauce that slides out on the plate in the shape of the can. Others like an actual cranberry sauce. Either way, Americans think of cranberries on our Thanksgiving table.

How did cranberries become a part of Thanksgiving? According to cranberries grew wild in the Northeast part of the United States. Native American ate cranberries mixed with deer meat and used the juice to dye their blankets, rugs, and clothing. They also knew of their medicinal value, long before science could prove it.

North America has only three native fruits and cranberries are one of them. They grow on long vines in sandy bogs and they are harvested in the autumn when the bog is flooded with water and the cranberries float to the surface. The quality of a berry is based on how well it can bounce. If the fruit bounces well, it is a quality berry, if it not, it is discarded. The machines on cranberry farms automatically filter out the bad berries.

How did this deep red fruit gets its name? The early German and Dutch settlers began calling it the “crane berry” because its flower resembled the head and bill of a crane.

The following cranberry recipes are the first part of a multi-series collection of holiday recipe ideas including salads, potatoes, vegetables, and turkey leftovers.

Bourbon Cranberry Sauce

This easy “grown-up” cranberry sauce is prepared in the oven and can be made one week ahead of time, which means one less thing to do on Thanksgiving Day.
1 pound (about 4 cups) cranberries
2 cups sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup bourbon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first 3 ingredients in 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake until cranberries are tender and sugar is dissolved, stirring once, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and stir in bourbon. Refrigerate cranberry sauce until well chilled. Can be prepared l week ahead of time. Before serving, transfer to bowl.
Makes about 3 cups

Cranberry Compote

Compote is French for “mixture.” This is a 17th century French dessert made from pieces of fruit in sugar syrup. In this compote, the classic flavors of cranberry, orange, and cinnamon are infused together.
2 cups fresh cranberries
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
zest of ½ an orange
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and cook 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until berries start to pop but are still whole.  Transfer to a bowl to cool and serve.
Makes about 1 cup

6-Minute Cranberry-Orange Relish
For those who prefer a more chunky-style sauce, this is one with a tiny bit of crunched packed with the flavors of cranberries, orange, and pecans.
1 can (16 ounces) whole-berry cranberry sauce (not jellied)
1 orange
2 Tablespoons breakfast style orange juice or juice from ½ of a fresh orange
½ cup finely chopped pecan pieces
1 stalk celery (for ½ cup finely chopped)
Place the cranberry sauce in medium bowl. Stir to break up any large pieces. Peel the orange, remove the seeds and finely chop, adding it to the bowl as you chop (add any juices from the chopping as well). Lastly, add the orange juice and chopped pecans to the bowl.

Rinse and finely chop the stalk of celery to make ½ cup. Add to the bowl and stir well. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or serve immediately.

If using fresh orange juice, you may finely chop the remaining half of the orange and add it to the relish with the juice for a bigger orange presence if desired.
Makes about 2 ½ cups

Cranberry Sauce with Pinot Noir

This sauce has a bolder flavor with the addition of red wine and Chinese five spice powder. It can be served warm or cold.
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups cranberries (about 8 ounces)
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cups Pinot Noir or other dry red wine
1 ½ cups sugar
3 Tablespoons chopped crystalized ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder

large pinch of Chinese five-spice powder (an Asian blend of ground anise, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and ginger, available in spice section of many supermarkets)

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium high heat and add cranberries and fresh ginger. Stir until cranberries begin to burst, about 3 minutes. Add wine and sugar; boil until mixture is reduced to 2 ½ cups, about 15 minutes. Add crystallized ginger, curry powder and five-spice powder. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Serve sauce cold or if desired rewarm over low heat, stirring often. This can be made 3 days ahead of time. Cover and chill.
Makes about 2 ½ cups

Cranberry-Clementine Sauce

Here is a super simple sauce to dress up your holiday table.
2 clementines
2 packages (12 ounces each) fresh cranberries
Cut clementines in half and leaving on the rind and peel, slice as thinly as possible. Place in a saucepan with the cranberries, sugar, and l ½ cups water. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool before serving.
Serves 8-10 people