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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cranberries for Thanksgiving - Shop Today, Prepare Tomorrow, Serve on Thursday

Invited to Thanksgiving dinner? Volunteer to bring the cranberries; it's easy and you will be hailed as a culinary genius. Here's the scoop.

Some years ago we were invited to Thanksgiving dinner with a group of friends. The hostess informed me that I was assigned to bring cranberries. My experience with cranberries at Thanksgiving to date had been watching one relative or another open a can of the jelled stuff, slide it onto a dish, and cut it into slices. Somehow, this "family recipe" seemed wrong; but how to proceed?

Two lucky things occurred. First, I had access to The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham which had a cranberry sauce recipe. Importantly, the simple recipe in this book had good advice about the technique to follow in making the sauce.

Second, I happened to read a USA Today article that also had a cranberry relish recipe. This recipe called for orange juice, which sounded good. I combined the two recipes and, after a bit of shopping, 15 minutes in the kitchen, and a few hours cooling the berries in the refrigerator, I had a dish. Here it is:

Cranberry Relish

1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar (I've used less, 3/4 cup. The dish is tart, but tart is a good counterpoint when it accompanies mild foods such as turkey).
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup orange juice
(optional: 2 tsp. grated orange zest)

Rinse the cranberries. Combine all the ingredients in a large sauce pan. Bring to a simmer, and simmer uncovered over medium heat until the berry skins pop and the relish is somewhat thickened. Remove from the heat. Use a large spoon to carefully skim off the white foam, pour the cranberries into a serving bowl, and cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

The finished product may not look like much in terms of quantity, but remember it is a relish not a main dish. This is probably enough for six people. If you double the recipe, be sure to use a good sized sauce pan and carefully watch to prevent boiling over.

(Adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and a recipe from USA Today).

Berries on the simmer. Keep an eye on this mixture; don't let it overheat and boil over as that would create a tremendous mess. Trust me on this

The cranberries are cooked and ready for the refrigerator.

This also makes a nice side-dish when a simple quiche is served for dinner.

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