Ditch the Canned Cranberries this Thanksgiving
Entertaining the Question
November, 2005 - Issue #13
Dear Culinary Geniuses,

Last Thanksgiving, I was teased about my reliance on store-bought, "it's still shaped like a can even though it's out of its can" cranberry sauce. I'm not interested in a repeat offense. Help!

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce - and we are not talking cranberry sauce from the can, people!

Is it the delicate marriage of tart and sweet, the rich ruby color or the soothing texture that makes cranberry sauce so welcome on our holiday tables? Or does it fulfill its annual destiny at Thanksgiving because, after all, the turkey and trimmings are the perfect foil for the sweet-tart fruit?

Regardless of the answer to these deep ponderings, it's fun to know a little about the food you're working with. These shiny scarlet berries are grown in huge, sandy bogs on low, trailing vines. They're also called bounce berries, because ripe ones bounce, and crane berries, after the shape of the shrub's pale pink blossoms, which resemble the heads of cranes often seen wading through the cranberry bogs.

Harvested between Labor Day and Halloween, the peak market period for cranberries is from October to December. You can find them in the produce section of the market, usually packaged in 12-ounce plastic bags. Any cranberries that are discolored or shriveled should be discarded. Cranberries can be stored in an airtight container for up to one month in the refrigerator, and for up to one year in the freezer.

For an inspired blast of flavor, try one of these recipes. Each one is so full of character that it might just upstage the turkey!

Cranberry & Dried-Cherry Sauce
1 12-oz container frozen cranberry juice cocktail, thawed
1 cup water
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1/4 tsp allspice
1 6-oz package dried tart cherries
1 12-oz bag cranberries

Bring first 5 ingredients to boil in heavy medium saucepan over medium high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add cherries, cook 2 minutes. Add cranberries; cook until berries pop, stirring occasionally, about 9 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Cover; chill overnight.
(This can be made one week ahead. Keep chilled.) For serving, remove cinnamon stick, bring to room temperature.

Cranberry, Tangerine and Crystallized-Ginger Relish
1 12-oz bag cranberries
1 6-oz tangerine unpeeled, halved, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped crystallized ginger (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup orange marmalade

Using the on/off button, coarsely chop cranberries in processor. Transfer to medium bowl. Then coarsely chop tangerine in processor. Combine with cranberries. Mix in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight. (This can also be made one week ahead.) Serve cold or at room temperature.

Happy Holidays Cocktail

Take fresh cranberries and orange slices and soak in vodka overnight. Pour 1/2 ounce each of vodka and Cointreau into a glass with ice. Add 2 ounces cranberry juice and 3 ounces champagne, top with the vodka soaked cranberries and oranges.


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