Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's the Cranberry Time of Year!

Spent lots of the weekend making a semi-annual round of jellies, marmalades, and chutneys. Perfect for the season! I made one of my favorite chutneys -- a cranberry, sour cherry and grapefruit concoction -- and tried a new one, a hot, sweet cranberry and tangerine sauce with chopped nuts and cayenne pepper. (I spent last night learning to section oranges and grapefruits like a champ!) Small batch recipes are such a treat! And with modern food safety that replaces the horrible paraffin of old with boiling water processing, it's so simple to make 4-8 jars of each as holiday treats.

Not used to working with cranberries? Here are a few tips:

* You can buy fresh or frozen. Fresh berries come in 12-oz bags which are about 3 cups of whole berries.

* If you're working with frozen cranberries and are going to cook them for a sauce or chutney, you don't need to defrost.

* Experts recommend you chop fresh cranberries in a food processor.

* The bag says not to wash fresh cranberries. Not sure why, but it's useful to rinse them in a colander and pick through for any spoiled or mushy berries.

* Most recipes recommend cooking cranberries until they begin to burst. They generate great juice and begin to cook down fairly quickly after they pierce their skins.

* Most chutneys will keep, unprocessed and refrigerated, for about 6 weeks. Some need a few days to meld flavors. Processed in jars with a boiling water canner, chutneys will keep for up to a year.

* For basic cranberry sauces, you just need berries and sugar (white or brown), but try adding a smidgen of apple cider vinegar, spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves, and citrus like grapefruit or tangerine. You can add heat -- like chilis or chili powder -- and even chopped nuts like walnuts or pecans. For a more savoury sauce, add a little chopped onion or chopped apples. Raisins are good, too!

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