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Tuesday, November 2

Cranberry Heaven

I started thinking about some of the simpler things that go well with holiday meals, but tend to be overlooked the rest of the year, and surprisingly, there's ONE dish that is virtually ignored for mainstream meals...cranberry sauce.  Did any of you know that cranberries are one of only a handful of native fruit species to America?  It's true, yet they are also probably one of the most under-utilized fruits available!!

When most think of cranberries, they think tart, astringent, and inedible, but cranberries are fabulous for the human body.  They are EXTREMELY high in Vitamin C, which helps promote a healthy immune system.  They're high in citric acid, too...10 times more in 1/2 cup of cranberries than there is in 1 medium orange.  This helps tremendously with kidney function, and bladder health.  So why are they ignored more often than not? 

I think part of the problem is that cranberries have been associated with holiday meals for so long, that we simply forget about them the rest of the year, to be honest.  Normal harvest time for cranberries runs from mid-September to November, which just reinforces that notion...but cranberries can add a zing to many dishes, and should become more commonplace in today's households. 

Of course, one of the biggest problems the cranberry faces is the simple fact that most DO NOT know what to do with them.  Few people realize how easy it would be to add them to a regular diet (and I'm NOT talking canned, either).  Face it...how many of you actually realize that it only takes 10 minutes, plus some chilling time, to make homemade cranberry sauce?  Yes...10 MINUTES!! 

Today I'll cover your basic recipe for making cranberry sauce, then I'm going to present you with two LUCIOUS variations, one with orange and one with apple, that will make ANYONE a fan of that little gem, the cranberry!!! 

HOMEMADE CRANBERRY SAUCE

2 cups fresh cranberries, washed, sorted
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

In a medium bowl, wash and sort the cranberries.  You want to use plump, bright red ones, discarding any that are burst, browned, or bruised.  Drain and set aside.

In a medium saucepot, combine water and sugar, and bring to a light boil, making sure sugar is dissolved.  Add cranberries, and continue to boil for about 8-10 minutes, until some of the berries burst naturally (do not overcook or it can become bitter).  Remove from heat, and using a potato masher, mash most of the berries, blending with the water fairly well (you do want some to remain in bigger pieces).  Cool, pour into a small bowl, and refridgerate for about 2 hours.  Sauce will thicken as it cools.  Serve chilled.  Makes 4-5 servings.

Simple, right?  The flavor lends itself well to all manner of entrees'...pork and poultry being tops.  Now, are you all ready for the ULTIMATE cranberry sauces?  I have 2 for your enjoyment.

HOLIDAY ORANGE-CRANBERRY SAUCE

2 cups fresh cranberries, washed, sorted
1/2 teaspoon orange or tangerine zest
1/4 cup orange or tangerine juice
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup red wine (use something with sweetness)
1 cinnamon stick
2-3 cardamom pods OR 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
4-5 whole cloves OR 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

In a medium bowl, wash and sort the cranberries.  Drain and set aside

In a medium saucepot, combine juice, sugar, wine, cinnamon, cardamom, and clove, and bring to a light boil.  Reduce heat to medium, and cook for about 8 minutes.  Remove the solid spices (cinnamon, cardamom pods, and whole cloves) if you using.

Add in the cranberries and zest.  Return to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes, or until most cranberries have burst (do not overcook, or it can become bitter).  Remove from heat, then mash with a potato masher.  Cool, then pour into a small bowl and chill for at least 2 hours.  Makes 4-5 servings.

APPLE-CINNAMON CRANBERRY SAUCE

2 cups fresh cranberries, washed, sorted
1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced in 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar (or more, to taste)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

In a medium bowl, wash and sort cranberries.  Drain, set aside.

In a medium saucepot, add cranberries, diced apple, juice, water, sugar, vinegar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Bring to a light boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes (do not overcook, or it can become bitter).  Remove from heat, mash lightly with potato masher, then allow to cool.  Pour into a small bowl, then refridgerate for at least 2 hours.  Makes 4-5 servings.

There you are folks...2 simple ways to turn ordinary into extraordinary!!  ENJOY!!



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