On the Table: For the Love of Cranberries
By Deborah Salomon
I love cranberries. Let me tell you why.
According to some historians, cranberries are one of only three original North American fruits, the others being -blueberries and Concord grapes. Exaggeration or not, at least cranberries earned their place at the Thanksgiving table.
Fresh American cranberries are available but once a year. Cranberries from Chile? I don't think so.
Cranberries freeze beautifully. Stock up when price bottoms out. Dump berries into a zipper plastic bag, pop into freezer. Remove every 30 minutes and shake to break up clumps for easy pouring.
Just a few will do. Toss a handful into simmering -applesauce for a lovely pink tinge. Toss another handful into turkey stuffing, fruit pies. Cook some until tender, mash with your sweet potatoes.
Cranberries buzz. Get your kicks from cranberry wine (cool or mulled or spritzed with club soda) or a Cape Codder. And now, from Leopold Bros., New England Cranberry Liqueur.
Not-so-secret ingredient: Keep a container of cranberry juice concentrate in the freezer. Toss cut apples with a quarter cup before baking the pie.
Whisk a spoonful into oil and a mild (like rice) vinegar for spinach salad dressing. Stir some into plain or vanilla yogurt. Brush on baked beets. Color vanilla frosting cranberry-pink with concentrate. Best of all, flavor tomato sauce with vinegar and concentrate for sweet-and-sour meatballs.
Ocean Spray TV ads: Those down-home guys in the bog are actors, but more convincing even than the Smucker brothers.
For the longest time I assumed they were photoshopped into the bog. Not true. Ocean Spray maintains a traveling bog that holds 2,000 pounds of berries floating in water.
Picture this: Martha Stewart waded in (only ankle deep) when the bog visited Rockefeller Center. So cranberries must be a good thing.
Try dried: Use dried cranberries in oatmeal cookies and hot oatmeal instead of raisins. Fold them into muffins and banana or other quick breads. Make cranberry-almond bark by pouring molten dark chocolate chips over dried cranberries and roughly chopped almonds spread on greased waxed paper.
Holiday chicken salad: plumped dried cranberries, sliced celery, chicken chunks and mayo. Note: Soak berries in boiling apple cider or orange juice for extra flavor.
Canned whole-berry sauce: With peanut butter, on a sandwich. With cream cheese, on a bagel. Swirled into custard, pudding, yogurt or fruit salsa. Brushed on baked ham. Instead of ketchup, on a turkey or veggie burger.
Canned jellied sauce: Yuck.
Tartly terrific: Over-sweetening fresh cranberries robs them of distinction. Make a sauce of cranberries cooked in apple cider, sweetened with a touch of real maple syrup - also a native American food. Pour over holiday eggnog-flavored ice cream.
Cranberries bounce: Actually, if you don't mind a mess, that's the way to weed out the few bad ones in each bag. They won't.
Fauxberry: Yes, Jell-O offers an artificial -cranberry flavor. Boost it by substituting cranberry juice for half the water. This is an excellent family dessert with whipped cream and toasted chopped pecans.
Not sure if anyone still strings cranberries and popcorn for the Christmas tree. Tedious work, lovely result. Make a few extra loops, hang outside for the birds.
Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Cranberries to all!
Contact Deborah Salomon at debsalomon @nc.rr.com.
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