24 November 2009
The morning started with birds. A whole tree full of squawking, talking avian visitors. Maybe on their way south, or taking off early for their Thanksgiving destination. They chirped and screamed, "I'm Alive!", their noise echoing off buildings making it sound like they were everywhere. I went out on an errand and the air was filled with the sound of these birds all settled in one tree. When I came back, they had migrated to a tree on the next street over. I guess they were in no hurry to get anywhere, enjoying the warm November day as much as all the people out on the sidewalks.
My kitchen was lit by the sun, a distinct November light shining through leafless trees. I had a bag full of shining cranberries -- deep, glowing red, crisp and bouncy ready to roll off the table onto the floor. As you know, I love fresh cranberries for their tart, intense flavor and for their sweeter applications. There are so many recipes to incorporate cranberries, but somewhere along the way I got it in my head that I wanted to make and can some cranberry sauce and this weekend it was time to make this happen.
Even as I rinsed the cranberries, I was debating which recipe I should use. I was tempted to make a savory cranberry chutney, but I decided for my first cranberry saucing experience I should go for a variation on something classic. I'm not sure how serving cranberry sauce in the shape of the can became a classic, it has never been in my family, but when Ray first celebrated Thanksgiving with us he insisted on including this in our feast (and still does). Being a mildly obsessed make-it-myself-er when it comes to food, I had to try to make something better and I couldn't resist canning it, too. I will bring some to my mom's house for Thanksgiving, give some to friends and family for their celebrations and keep a few jars in our pantry.
This sauce will never hold the shape of the jar, but I like this homemade version of cranberry sauce. Its not too sweet since I added the zest and juice of a couple of oranges and a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh ginger but it will be a bright addition to any plate (on Thanksgiving or any other day). If you are not going to can this, then you can add whatever other flavor and texture you want (other fruits, nuts) or decrease or increase the sugar as you like. Since I was determined to make a big batch and preserve it in jars I kept closely to the original recipe that I have included here. Its spoonable, spreadable, tart, but not very, a bit of a noisy, sunny fall day sealed up in a jar.
Cranberry Orange Sauce
Adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This recipe makes enough to fill about 10 8-ounce jars. If you want to make less, especially if you are not canning it, you can easily cut the recipe in half. If you want to have plenty to can and share, stick with these amounts.
4 cups of water
Zest and Juice of two oranges (about 3/4 cup juice)
3 cups sugar
10 cups cranberries 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
In a large saucepan combine water, orange juice and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add cranberries and return to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, the berries will burst with gentle popping sounds. Continue to gently boil for 20-25 minutes until sauce thickens and runs off a spoon in sheets.
Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars and lids. Ladle hot sauce into jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Remove air bubbles and adjust head space if necessary by adding sauce. Wipe rim and center lid on jar. Screw band down until finger-tip tight. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove canner lid, wait five minutes the remove jars, cool and store for up to one year.