21 November 2011
We had our first snow this weekend. Already it has turned gray and slushy, but the thin blanket of white on branches and roof tops feels festive. It seems like everyone is busy getting ready for Thanksgiving. If you are, I hope it is a pleasant list of plans and tasks without too much worrying or hurrying. For me, Thanksgiving has usually been pretty laid back, though the only time I've come close to cooking a turkey was when I brought one home after helping to harvest* them at Shelburne Farms.
When I was young we had big family Thanksgivings at my grandparents, the kids always had their own table away from the grown ups and Baskin Robbins ice cream turkeys for dessert. There was the year that we ran out of mashed potatoes before everyone had gotten food and the year after that at my Aunt's house when we were shocked that there were no mashed potatoes at all. But most of my Thanksgivings have been low key, cooking with family. Enjoying the company, the meal, a leisurely stroll and a board game with first or second helpings of pie.
This year Ray and I are again far from our families so it will be an even more laid back day of cooking and eating. Ray is making mac and cheese and I'll make some vegetable dishes. It can be hard to choose what to make and what to leave out. Even though we could eat all of these good foods any other meal of the year, it's hard not to want them all on the Thanksgiving table. My step-father always suggests we have creamed onions even though no one else really likes them. Ray requires the can of cranberry sauce served still intact. There are the traditional dishes and those that might become tradition. This year we couldn't decide on apple or pumpkin so we will each make a pie and remember that that the day is about abundance and leftovers.
I made a spiced cranberry sauce which will never be shaped like a can, but it actually tastes like tart cranberries and sweet spices. I've been wanted a little cranberry sauce to add to my plate next to sweeter autumn dinners. It starts with whole cranberries and some sugar or honey and goes from there.
Spiced Cranberry Sauce
I made two versions of this and liked them both, so there are options in this recipe. I think the basic formula for this is to add some sweetener, some spices and maybe some citrus zest. If you don't have whole spices, you can use ground spices but you might want to adjust the amounts to taste. You could use orange zest or even lime zest instead of the lemon. I hope this gives you the basic idea.
2 cups cranberries
1/4 cup honey or brown sugar (add more or less to your taste)
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon zest or chopped crystallized ginger
Place cranberries, a splash of water, and honey or sugar in a pot over medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick. Put the cloves, cardamom, and allspice in a tea ball or tie them up in cheese cloth and them in the pot to infuse the cranberries with their flavor. Add the nutmeg. Bring the berries to a simmer and let cook for about ten minutes or until most of the cranberries are cooked, but some are still whole. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest or ginger. Let the spices infuse a few minutes more. Remove the whole spices and cinnamon stick. Serve at room temperature.
*I didn't want to say slaughter in the middle of my first paragraph about thanksgiving, but that's what we did.