We live a long way from our relatives. A plane ride with a layover long way. That means we generally eat Thanksgiving dinner by ourselves, just the four of us. I like it that way. But it doesn’t stop me from cooking a dinner big enough to feed a couple dozen aunts and cousins and assorted innocent bystanders who might happen to drop by. I cook a lot, and I enjoy it a lot. This year was no different. I went traditional–turkey, potatoes, stuffing, rolls, broccoli, pumpkin pie. Yummy, but a bit of a yawn.
There was a bright spot, however. Ed and I always assumed we didn’t like cranberry sauce, probably because we had only ever been exposed to the canned stuff. It squats there on the plate, naked, embarrassed, in need of a girdle, the shape of dog food. Wiggling. Kinda rust colored. Ew.
As I was making chitchat with a couple of the other school moms, day before Thanksgiving, I mentioned this. “Oh, you HAVE to make it from scratch,” one exclaimed, then they both went into a tag team witnessing session on the joys of homemade cranberry sauce. Seeing two intelligent, canned-cranberry-sauce-hating adults burst into a spontaneous rave piqued my curiosity, so I swung by the store on the way home (for the 11th time in two days) and bought a bag of fresh cranberries. I found the recipe online they recommended, and made it. Simple ingredients–cranberries, sugar, the zest and juice of an orange, and a bunch of fresh grated ginger. I cooked it, used my stick blender on it, and pushed it through a sieve to smooth it out. The whole thing took less than half an hour. Skipped the pecans the recipe called for. Not risking perfectly good pecan$$ on a culinary gamble.
Took a bit on a spoon and tasted. Total eye opener. It blew my mind. Lit my tongue up like a pinball machine. The subtle bite of the fresh ginger played perfectly against the cranberries. Every taste was so intense–the sweet, the tart, the bright citrus high notes–it was like three acres of flavor squeezed into one teaspoon of sauce. And it was so beautiful. A deep, bright burgundy color, shiny, with a great consistency, similar to applesauce but smoother. I was hooked. After that, there was no keeping me away from it. Tasting spoons piled up in the sink as I kept going back for just one more bite. Ed was the same, just as surprised, delighted, and addicted as I was. Next time I’ll be adding pecans. Next time might be tomorrow.
Here’s the recipe I found online:
Killer Cranberry Sauce
1-1/2 cup sugar
1 navel orange
1/2 t grated ginger
4 C cranberries
1/2 C (2 oz.) toasted pecans
Grate the orange peel and add to a pot with the sugar and ginger.
Add the juice from the orange into the pot and simmer over
medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.
Add cranberries and cook until they pop – about 5 minutes.
Add pecans and cool sauce.
(I blended and strained the sauce, and I think that made it even better.)
So here’s to confronting old prejudices, to the pleasures of homemade, and to the moms at Emmy school. Lots to give thanks for. I owes ya.