Friday, November 23, 2012

Cranberry Sauce for Thanksgiving in an Artist's Studio

You may think that it doesn't make much sense to give you a recipe for cranberry sauce the day after Thanksgiving.  There is however great logic to my decision.   I wanted to see the finished product presented  and enjoyed before I  published the recipe.   Seem reasonable?    Cranberry sauce is good for as long as there are fresh cranberries around  and then some as raw cranberries freeze to perfection (I've held on to them for almost a year in the freezer), and the cooked sauce lasts, refrigerated, for just as long.  Cranberry sauce is not just for Thanksgiving.   Turkey is my least favorite use for the sauce.  I love it inserted into toasted Cheddar cheese  sandwiches.  And as we discovered last night it's just the right  accompaniment to gorgonzola cheese.  I like it in yogurt, and on a piece of cheese cake.  It makes a good base for a fruity vinaigrette, and when mixed with mayonnaise elevates a turkey or chicken or ham or tuna sandwich right up to the top level.

I'm lucky to have a sister who sends me cranberries from the Nantucket bogs - the world's largest naturally contiguous  bog (and certified organic) - every year around harvest time.  The berries arrive with tiny, threadlike stems, some leaves, some rotten berries and some that are still green, they are NOT sorted in a warehouse, instead just sold straight out of the rakes - well, just about. To make the sauce I sort out stems, leaves and rotten berries, and leave a few green ones for the incredible amount of pectin that they produce.  The sauce thickens up in the blink of an eye.

This is how I made this year's  CRANBERRY SAUCE:

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts

2 pounds fresh, rinsed cranberries
1 orange, thinly sliced then cut into 1-inch sections
juice from three oranges
2 cups organic light brown sugar
1/2 cup pure honey  (I use my brother-in-law's  honey whose bees drink from the cranberry blossoms in the bog a short flight from their hives)
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
4 or 5 cardamom pods
butcher's twine

1.   Add the cranberries, orange sections and juice, sugar,  and honey to a large non-reactive saucepan over medium heat.  
2.  Tie the cinnamon sticks, cloves and cardamom up in the cheesecloth and stir into the cranberry mixture making sure that it's completely immersed in the berries.
3.  Cook, stirring occasionally until almost the berries pop and the sauce is the consistency of loose jam, 20-30 minutes.  Let cool with the spice sachet inside.   Remove the sachet from the cooled berries and squeeze the syrup from the cloth.   Stir through the sauce.    Refrigerate the sauce in a tightly-lidded container until ready for use.

I was fortunate to share Thanksgiving meal with old friends who I met, decades ago on Nantucket, and have lived in Hudson for over 20 years.   Don't you just love when life's circles close.  

Margaret (no website - Google Margaret Saliske to see her work) set the table in her studio near some of her sculpture and  a few of her husband, Tony's Hudson River Valley landscape paintings.  We were in place, in place.  A small group of family, and I who has been around at least as long as most of them.  As the song says, "the vittles* we et were good you bet and the company was the same".


* .   roast turkey with chestnut and mushroom dressing, pan juice gravy
   .   roasted acorn squash
   .   spicy, sauteed Swiss chard
   .   roasted potatoes
   .   pan roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon
   .   cranberry sauce
   .   Kunik cheese and Amish-made gorgonzola cheese
   .   pecan pie
   .   raspberry linzer torte


Make these tea sandwiches for one of your wintertime gatherings - or when someone asks you to contribute to a potluck meal:

makes 48 two-bite sandwiches

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup cranberry sauce - above recipe
24 slices very thin whole wheat bread (Pepper Ridge Farm makes it)
1/2 pound sharp Cheddar cheese cut into 1/4-inch slices

1.   In a bowl, blend the butter and cranberry sauce together
2.   Line up the bread in pairs.   Butter each slice of bread with the cranberry-butter.  Cover one side of each pair with Cheddar.  Top the other side, pressing gently but firmly.  Trim away the crusts.  Cut each sandwich on the diagonal to make 4 triangular sandwiches.
3.   Serve immediately, or refrigerate, covered with damp paper towels, until ready to serve.

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