I have taken it upon myself in the last few years to make the cranberry accompaniment to our family’s Thanksgiving meal. We were never really a jellied stuff out of a can family, more the “fresh” stuff out of a plastic tub family. And then I got into preserving and found how incredibly easy cranberry preserves are to make – due in no small part to the fact that that most cran-based preserves are almost guaranteed to set (thanks to their high pectin content).
Cranberries pair with a myriad of flavors. Pommes are still around this time of year in cold storage if you give your local orchards a call. As someone who stashes fruit away all season in the freezer, rhubarb, blueberries, plums, meyer lemons, raspberries… all could work in one form or another. And think of the fresh and dried spices: bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla, chiles or peppercorns all would add different dimensions. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t refer you to the liquor cabinet: spiced rum, gin, fortified wines and my favorite bourbon each would bring out different notes.
I always make two cranberry condiments – a more low-test version and a more complex (ahem – less traditional) one. Last year lead to a locally grown ginger, clementine and bourbon combo, which was entirely lovely. This year saw a smoked salt and pomegranate molasses version and we saw a bourbon clementine reprise. For almost certain future reference, I bookmarked Cupcake Rehab’s Rockin Moroccan Cranberry Sauce with Preserved Lemon (already scheming preserved citrus for next year’s cran!), Kitchen Simplicity’s Cranberry Curd and Canal House’s Cranberry-Port Gelée.
In fact, the more I think about it, shouldn’t we nominate cranberry preserves as the official gateway preserve? Most people start with strawberry jam - despite the heartache of getting the right set and the pressure of it being the first fruit of the growing season (excluding my beloved rhubarb of course) lead to all this unnecessary drama. Cranberries are easy to work with, the set is reliable, and the timing is great. Make a small batch for Thanksgiving and serve fresh, make a larger batch and waterbath can for holiday gifts and enjoy the fruits of your labor in the off-season to get comfortable before June hits.
The best part, though – is the leftovers. Too much cranberry? I always make at least two pints and have some leftover. You could always make a cake. I don’t know about you – but all of my thoughts about baked goods right now are not pleasant. So I turned to something to temper all the sweet of late – mostarda. Great served alongside your poultry leftovers but also pork – which could be a nice change of pace from the fowl overload of the last week.
Cranberry Brown Sugar Mostarda
Leftover cranberry sauce (approximately a cup)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup white wine
1/8 cup dijon mustard
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon red chile flake
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Add all of your ingredients to a saucepan and cook over medium heat until fragrant. Turn heat to low and cook until desired consistency. Pour into a glass jar with a lid (mason or locking) and refrigerate.* Serve alongside poultry, pork – or even a cheese plate if your holidays haven’t quite tapered off yet.
*While this recipe is in all likelihood safe for waterbath canning, it greatly depends on the cranberry product you start with. If it was a relish or chutney (possibly containing low-acid ingredients like onion or garlic), I would keep this a fridge recipe. If it was homemade and had generally low-acid or pH neutral ingredients – go for it! I would process at 15 minutes.