Pardon the interruption to your usual brown bag lunch blog. I wanted to take a moment to give thanks… for cranberry sauce.
Perhaps from a can, whole berry or smooth. Perhaps made fresh from a bag, cooked or raw. It’s an almost ridiculously simple food, sugar and berries and whatever else you feel inspired to add. Or not.
Many loathe it. More simply tolerate it, as they would that odd and slightly inappropriate uncle with wispy ear hair and a stale repertoire of jokes. They accept it at the table, but don’t really welcome it, placing a small dab on the outskirts of their plates.
I… embrace it.
I love it in all it’s outlandish, snappy-sweet glory. I relish the way it messes with all the other flavors of the Thanksgiving meal. It’s too tart to complement a savory stuffing or mild roast turkey. It’s too acidic to play nice with mashed potatoes and wrecks havoc with gravy and green beans.
The only thing on the plate cranberry sauce gets along with? The dinner rolls. And face it, the rolls are the doting aunties of the table, agreeable to everyone, blushing at everything.
But we should be thankful for the cranberry sauces in our lives, the outlandish and slightly inappropriate. They put in stark relief the things we value and cherish. They challenge our sense of how the world puzzles together. And that is good.
And that is a lesson we need to teach our children. When we homogenize our world, when we make sure all our flavors, all our people, pair up pleasantly, it’s easy to overlook the value of the misfit.
We do it with good intentions. We do it to bring order and safety to our children. To bring continuity to our tables. But maybe we should do it a little less.
This year, I plan to encourage my son to give cranberry sauce a place of honor on his plate. Play with it, mash it into the potatoes, smear it on the turkey and into the stuffing. Then taste it. See what it does to everything else.
Learn to love the misfit, even if you don’t like it.
This blog entry and recipe are part of Food Network’s The Communal Table – a virtual gathering of food world voices sharing their thoughts and recipes for a wonderful Thanksgiving. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find a list of the other contributors and links to what they are bringing to the table. Please join us.
Ginger-Pear Cranberry Sauce
I love cranberry sauce in all its many and varied forms _ raw as a salsa, cooked as a chutney, canned smooth or whole berry. It is sassy and utterly wrong for the Thanksgiving table. And I love it for that. This is my family’s recipe _ chunky, sweet, tart and rich with ginger and cardamom.
We eat an unusual Thanksgiving dinner. Though we are neither vegetarian nor Greek, a giant spinach and feta cheese spanakopita — not a turkey — is at the center of our table. I don’t know why. That is simply our family’s tradition and we love it for that.
This cranberry sauce pairs no better with spanakopita than it does with more traditional Thanksgiving fixings. And we love it for that.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Makes about 3 cups
- 3 cups (12-ounce bag) fresh cranberries
- 3 cups chopped pears (about 2 medium pears)
- 1 cup orange juice or apple cider
- ½ cup dried, unsweetened cherries
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger (also called candied ginger)
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
- Pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Cover and bring to a gentle boil over a medium-low flame. Cook 12 minutes. Uncover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the sauce to a heat-proof bowl and cool 10 minutes. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.
Cocktails, Appetizers, Salads and Breads:
Liquor.com: Thanksgiving Cocktails
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Braided Biscuits
Epicurious: Chestnut and Sherry Soup
Yahoo! Shine: Spicy Caramelized Onion Jam With Goat Cheese
Whole Foods Market: Mixed Green Salad With Pears, Hazelnuts, Blue Cheese and Homemade Croutons
FN Dish: Alton Brown’s Good Eats Roast Turkey
Eatocracy: Country Ham With Pickled Peaches
BlogHer Food: Root Vegetable Pot Pie With Cheddar Biscuit Crust
Cooking Light: Fennel, Sausage, and Caramelized Apple Stuffing
Bon Appetit: Maxine Rapoport’s Turkey Stuffing
EatingWell: Green Bean Casserole
Serious Eats: Ultra-Crispy Roasted Potatoes
Food Republic: Cavatappi With Fontina and Fall Vegetables
Healthy Eats: Green Bean Casserole With Crispy Shallots
Saveur: Green Beans and Tomatoes
Diner’s Journal: Fiery Sweet Potatoes
Real Simple: Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots With Rosemary and Pecans
The Daily Meal: Bacon Brussels Sprouts
AP/ J.M. Hirsch: Ginger-Pear Cranberry Sauce
Food.com: Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Food & Wine: Michael Symon’s Swiss Chard and Leek Gratin
All You: Sweet Potato Bake
The Blender/ Williams-Sonoma: Deep-Dish Apple Bourbon Streusel Pie
Southern Living: Pumpkin-Pecan Cheesecake
Cooking Channel: Apple Bread Pudding
Fox News: Ginger Molasses Sugar Cookies
Gourmet Live: Pumpkin Coconut Panna Cotta
Melissa Clark: Sweet Potato Ginger Custard Pie
MyRecipes.com: White Chocolate Cheesecake With Cranberry Currant Compote