Friday, November 28, 2008

Cranberry relish

Here's a seasonal recipe that's different from the usual jelly-like canned cranberry sauces which are way too sweet and usually lack interest -- for want of a better word.

No, this one is good, interesting, and provides a good foil for blander foods -- such as turkey. Plus, it's sort of good for you.

1. Take a bag of fresh cranberries (usually 12 ounces). Wash them, and remove any stray stems that might still be there.

2. Core an apple (make sure you have a good, bright-tasting variety for this!) and cut into inch-size pieces.

3. Juice an orange. Or use orange juice concentrate. You're looking for maybe 1/2 cup of juice, although this isn't an exact science.

4. Put all of the above in a heavy-duty blender and grind until it's a thick mush. "Mush" makes it sound less appetizing than it is, but it's the best word I can think of at the moment. What we're looking for is a thick mixture, with perhaps some tiny pieces of cranberry still intact. If you don't have a heavy-duty blender, I'm afraid you'll have to stick with the canned stuff.

5. Pour the cranberry/apple/orange juice mixture into a serving bowl. Add sugar to taste: I used 3/4 cup for this. What you're aiming at is a balance of tart (unadorned cranberries are very tart) and sweetness. The sweetness should not overtake the tart. If you'd like, add a teaspoon of vanilla, or a dry wine. If you don't like, don't. 1/4 cup of ground pecans adds a nice touch.

I was given a sample of this at Weaver Street Market, in Carrboro, NC. I don't know how they made it, but it gave me an idea, and I checked on some online recipes, and took the ideas and came up with this.

NB Some of the online recipes for this are written by some of our hard-core vegan friends. In addition to animal products, many of this persuasion eschew white sugar, and feel this relish is quite swell without the sugar. De gustibus non disputandum and all that, but be warned: even with sugar, this is a fairly bracing dish. Without sugar, it's intense. You might want to start with 1/4 cup of sugar and move up to taste. I went with a larger amount because I was making it for a family gathering, including nepoti who are not inclined to health foods.

PS: If you run out to the store tomorrow, you can probably catch cranberries on sale. If you buy a bunch, just throw the whole bag in the freezer. They keep well, and thaw quickly, and this way you can ooh and ahh folks at covered dish dinners for months from now.

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