Monday, November 21, 2011

Ever-So-Simple Cranberry Sauce

I have a mission. It's a quiet little mission... a simple little culinary-sort-of-mission... nothing really daunting or overwhelming. In fact, it is entirely miniscule in the grand scheme of life, but oh-so-transforming to a holiday feast.

It's a personal little mission about cranberry sauce (or lack thereof).

Given the number of people I know that still slide their cranberry sauce out of a can in one solid mass, replete with the imprinted lines of the tin, I am convinced (by experience and not pure emotion), that many perform this ritual from habit alone... few even partaking in the sugar-sweet, gel-like concoction.

I understand and respect tradition if it's something held dear... tried and true. I love that there are scores of different camps you can turn to on how best to serve up a golden, juicy and crisp-skinned turkey; silky smooth mashed potatoes; flakey biscuits; or, a flavorful stuffing that takes bread to a whole new level of experience. I respect the fact that there are legions of folks, for example, that lovingly dot their sweet potato bake with a snow-like scape of tiny little marshmallows; or that there are whole camps that profess a genuine love of the canned green bean/mushroom soup/dried onion casserole. On both these fronts, I respectfully remain silent. However, when it comes to pulling cranberry sauce from a can, I feel compelled to offer an alternative that is just as easy and quick, deliciously tart and subtly sweet, and so much fresher and pleasing to the palate than anything out of a can could possibly be. It's not a grand discovery. It's something that has been around... and around... in some form or another. I believe it must be something that is assumed to be difficult. And yet, it's so very easy... it's hardly a recipe.

So this is my little mission...

Buy a package of fresh cranberries in the produce department of your neighborhood market and invest 10 minutes time. A few days before the big day (or a whole week prior), heat up some water, and toss those cranberries in with a little sugar, some fresh apple and pear, and a bit of fresh orange zest and juice, and be fully prepared to wholeheartedly convert from that canned mass to a fresh relish on this holiday... and every one hereafter.

Mission accomplished.

Ever-So-Simple Cranberry Relish
makes approximately 6 cups
This relish can be made up to a week ahead of time and kept stored (covered) in the fridge. And, once you are a true convert... change it up as you like. Add different fresh fruits, chopped nuts, or a savory touch. 

3 to 4 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained (any stems, damaged fruit removed)
1 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons orange zest (from one large orange)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from same large orange)
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced (I used Cameo)
1 pear, peeled, cored and diced (any variety that is ripe!)

Place cranberries in a large pot over medium heat and add water and sugar; stir to combine and cook until cranberries just begin to break open (about 8 minutes). Toss in zest, orange juice, apples and pears and mix well; continue to cook for another 2 to 5 minutes, until 2/3 of cranberries have popped. Remove from heat and let cool. Store covered in the fridge until ready to serve. (Allow to sit out for an hour to bring to room temperature, if desired.)

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