December 23, 2013

Cranberries in December

First, let me apologize for not having posted anything in a few weeks.  I've been having a difficult time with the early darkness of winter, as I always do at this time of year.  I have been trying to accept the cold, but I need the sun to help me out a little, too.

Also, it's difficult to cook a dish and photograph it before I lose natural light.

But enough with the excuses.  Let's bring some of that brightness we're craving back into the kitchen.

During Thanksgiving this year, I learned how to roast a turkey (!). This is a first for me, because I had been a vegetarian for the previous couple of decades.  My aunt Lynne usually hosts Thanksgiving and  texted me a while back so see if I would eat turkey along with everyone else if she purchased a sustainably-raised one.  I gladly accepted this offer and jumped at the chance to actually learn how to cook a turkey.

While our family has a set of traditional dishes at Thanksgiving, like the turkey and fixings, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, vegetable sides, and my beloved cranberry sauce, the way in which each is prepared changes each year.  This is wonderful for us home cooks, because we get to try out new dishes and flavors.  Our menu is always current and accommodating (last year I wrote about cooking for a group with various dietary needs).

Cranberry sauce from a can is absolutely delicious.  But it's also easy to make from scratch and can be varied endlessly.  Aunt Lynne made a cranberry chutney this year, more savory than sweet.  Of course I wanted the recipe - it called for a reprise during Christmas!

I'm hosting a smaller group of family for Christmas this week.  I'm so excited that I planned a seven course meal and maybe even a "table scape."  Okay, not really a table scape, but I do have a tablecloth and matching napkins. And a table and chairs, if I remember to bring them in from the patio in time to warm to room temperature.

Part of this meal is a cheese plate with olives, crackers, and this festive cranberry chutney. You can make it in about a half hour and hardly need to pay that much attention.  If you have been crazy with holiday get-togethers and have been charged with bringing an appetizer to one, I encourage you to steal this idea. No one will be disappointed, except Grinches.

  • 4 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 T. ginger root, minced
  • 2 t. mustard seed
  • 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 t. salt

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients.  Put on high heat until simmering, then reduce to low. Simmer until thickened and cooked through, stirring occasionally.  Allow to cool, transfer to fancy serving bowl, and think of all the possibilities!

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