Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Easy pre-holiday prep..the sauce!

homemade cranberry sauce
Homemade cranberry sauce is akin to a chutney, and is just as versatile, post-Thanksgiving, because it's easy to handle--just spoon away! It's also easy to make (takes only about an hour to prepare, then let it cool off), doesn't require precision, and is even better after sitting overnight in the fridge. This makes it great if you are doing the holiday cooking, because you can make it a couple days ahead, sparing yourself much aggravation. If you're going to someone else's home, it makes a great gift for the host. Its jewel-like appearance, with chunks of fruit, makes it a grown-up holiday delight!

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Um, thus is born this cranberry sauce "recipe," if you will...a new family favorite! The following makes enough to take some to your host, and some to keep for yourself as well.
  • 2 12-ounce bags cranberries (it's OK if you froze them beforehand; no need to defrost frozen ones before cooking, but give a quick rinse first, to remove any stems)
  • 1/2 cup or more juice
  • an orange, lime, grapefruit, or lemon (zest the fruit first; add the rest of the fruit to the sauce, if you prefer)
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar (may need to add more after tasting)
  • ground coriander (or ground ginger, ground cardamom, or ground nutmeg--cinnamon, allspice, or cloves are too overpowering to fruit flavors, in my opinion)
  • one pear or apple
In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, over medium heat, add the juice, the rinsed cranberries, sugar, then stir. If mixture seems a bit dry, add more juice--any juice is fine.

Add the citrus zest, then chop up the rest of the fruit, and add it to the sauce, if using the entire citrus fruit, then add the spice(s), and stir some more. Finally, chop the pear or apple and add it to the sauce, and stir again.

Stir the pot occasionally to keep it from sticking. The sugar should soon begin to melt within the sauce; after you see this, the berries should soon start simmering, and popping open. (You can assist the process of popping those berries with a wooden spoon, if you're impatient!) Turn down the heat a bit, to keep the sauce from spilling out of the pot.

The sauce is done when it's noticeably thicker than when you began; dip a spoon in it--some of the sauce should remain on the spoon. Taste it at this point; if you think it needs more sugar, add another 1/4 to 1/2 cup, and stir again until this sugar is fully melted into the sauce.

After turning off the heat, let the sauce cool in the pot another hour before spooning it into glass jars and refrigerating; theoretically, it keeps a few weeks, although it's usually eaten up within a couple of weeks!

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