Monday, November 10, 2008

Cranberry sauce

I made cranberry sauce this week-end & this is how I make it:

Cranberries from a bag NOT A CAN A BAG

Rum & lots of it

good old fashioned Water

Cloves, as in cloves of cloves, not cloves of garlic. I am sorry to report I know someone who thought cloves meant cloves of garlic. Very weird cranberry sauce & yet, still edible. I think she still makes it but with less garlic, even today.

Sugar: white sugar, lite brown sugar, dark brown sugar, the color of your sugar is up to you

Cinnamon stick because ground cinnamon really is just too much. Afterward you can use it to stir your cocoa, mmmmmm!

Mace. no, really. Outside of Trivial Pursuit this might be the first time this has come up for you, unless you are from The Nutmeg State. Here is the trivia: what two distinct spices come from the same plant? nutmeg & mace. Mace is the inner covering around the kernel in the nutmeg seed. Many cooks think nutmeg & mace can be used interchangeably. They are wrong but if it is not important to you, just use nutmeg. It is hard to use too much mace; it is very easy to use too much nutmeg. Also, if you are subbing with nutmeg, you might want to think about a pinch of red pepper. Less than a pinch, a few grains, really. Or you could just use mace.

Cornstarch, just in case.

-Boil the water, 5 fl oz or 1/4 pint-British or 2 cups or enough to cover to your first pinkie knuckle the bottom of your pot.

-Add the cinnamon stick, 3 whole cloves, maybe 4, never more than 5 & a full pinch of mace & the sugar. 8 oz is the upper limit for the sugar & you want to stir it slowly as it melts & use your nose. If it starts to smell like an old diabetic in a nursing home or the farthest, best concealed corner the stoners hung out at your high school STOP even if there is still sugar left in your measuring cup. White sugar will give you this smell faster without quite so much flavor on the other end. If you are using nutmeg instead of mace, use less than even a pinch; that is take a pinch & rub your fingers together without opening them over the pan.

-Once the sugar is dissolved, turn up the heat & bring to a low-but-constant boil for 8-10 minutes. Never stop stirring. I find the best way is to find some music that is 8-10 minutes long. Let me recommend: any two tracks from Joao Gilberto's Joao, almost any three songs by Sister Hazel, Aaron Copeland's Hoe-down twice & then 1/2 way again, I think you get the picture.

-Remove the cinnamon stick & the cloves. Do this with something that will let you knock the liquid back into the pot or you will have a sticky mess. I suggest toothpicks used like chopsticks or a slotted spoon. Put the cloves & cinnamon stick directly in the mug you will use for your celebration cocoa.

-Add the cranberries, the whole bag. If you are lucky enough to be able to buy them in bulk about a pound will do. You should have rinsed them first & let them dry, perhaps in that lovely cast-iron-&-enamel colander you put on your gift registry at Williams-Sonoma & have not used since the wedding. Or you could gather them in a thin kitchen towel, rinse them & use an elastic to close the towel & hang it from the kitchen faucet. They both work.

-Keep stirring & add the rum. How much rum? Well....the original recipe said 4 oz but that is more a guideline, really. Keep back just a bit for the cornstarch.

-Cook for ten minutes. Stir a lot, but once the cranberries have been well coated, you can relax a bit.

-While you are relaxing, take 2 tsp of cornstarch & dissolve it in the rum you held back. 2 tbs of rum is plenty, but more works, too.

-Stir the cornstarch in with the cranberries, keep stirring two more minutes on lowered heat.

-Scope into clean-Clean-CLEAN jars & tighten those lids. They will seal just fine for the few weeks until Thanksgiving dinner. If you are a worrier, pour boiled water into the jars & let them sit a minute. Tip them out & turn upside down until you are adding the sauce. I find rum helps. Not with the cleaning but with the worrying. It probably makes things more sterile as well, now that I think about it.

The day will come when you can get the heat & the sugar just right & you will not need the cornstarch. This may actually happen on your first try, but you won't know for sure until you open those jars again. When you get that perfect balance, cut the cornstarch, keep the rum.


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