Joan Weigle, who staffs the Fiddleheads Membership Info Desk every Saturday, loves Lior Lev Secarz's Spicy Cranberry Chutney with Apricots and Pecans . This recipe blends fresh cranberries, heated in cider and pomegranate juice, dried apricots and toasted pecans, then seasoned with ginger, cinnamon, clove, fennel, orange zest, etc. to subtle and complex effects that Joan appreciates. She said that it won the day for her in a competition with her daughter to determine who made the better chutney.
Cost of fresh cranberries at Fiddleheads: $3.00/lb
Hearing your child admit for once that Mom/Dad is right: PRICELESS
In the last two years I have inexplicably gone from "I can't stand spicy food" to "You call that spicy?" So if you're going to label your recipe "spicy", you'd better bring it.
For a time I fancied it was a result of growing sophistication on my part, until a friend pointed out to me, "Don't you know that you lose taste buds as you age?" (Yes, but I forgotten - because I didn't yet conceptualize myself as "aging". But now I do. Thanks. And I'd been so happy in my little world of fragile illusions "Look, a unicorn...!")
When I made the first batch of this for myself, I had to make some small adjustments due to availability and budget. I used watered-down black current juice from the co-op, which I already had at home, in place of the apple cider and pomegranate juice called for in the original. Black current juice is fairly strongly-flavored; nonetheless he result was, for my palate, surprisingly bland. I couldn't even taste the pecans, except to as a bit of crunchy texture. Tasty, but hardly worth the trouble and expense over my regular cranberry sauce recipe. (Now if someone would like to make a batch and show me how to "do it right"? Meet me at Fiddleheads and I will be glad, unlike Joan's daughter, to be proven wrong.)
So for my version I've I doubled the spices, added a splash of unfiltered apple cider vinegar, and a dash of cayenne in addition to the original's versions spices. Pecans are replaced by the more strongly-flavored and economical walnuts and raisins are thrown in the mix. Finally a touch of maple syrup balances the acidic flavors. You'll want to let it "rest" for 48 hours in the fridge to allow the flavors to mellow and really come together: tangy but not sharp, slightly sweet without being sugary. It's only when each bite slides off your tongue at the last do the spices "announce" themselves.
Spicier Cranberry Chutney
(adapted from Lev Lior Sacarz's original)
1/2 medium or 1 small red onion, chopped fine
olive oil for skillet
1 tea. ground cinnamon
1 whole anise star, or 1/2 tea. either ground fennel or anise
1/2 - 1 tea. ground cardamon
1/4 tea. ground allspice
1/4 - 1/3 freshly grated ginger
1/4 tea. ground cayenne
1/2 cup black current juice
1/2 cup water
juice and pulp of two large oranges
12 ounces fresh or frozen (thawed) cranberries
black pepper to taste
1/4 - 1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 dried apricots, chopped into small dice (to prevent knife from sticking, coat with a very small amount of oil or other oil)
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted/dry-roasted, then coarsely chopped or broken
2 tea. finely grated fresh orange zest, or the same amount of dried orange peel in small pieces, soaked in tepid water until softened
2 T apple cider vinegar
7-10 tea. maple syrup or amber (neutral) agave syrup, or to taste
wheatberries, cooked (optional, see note below)
In a heated skilled with slightly amount of olive oil, saute the chopped onion on low heat until tender and translucent, stirring frequently to prevent sticking; do not allow to brown.
Combine spices, except pepper, with the current juice and water into a large saucepan; add the orange juice and pulp to the pan. If using dried orange zest rather than fresh, and it and the soaking water to the pan now. Bring just to boil, then add the fresh cranberries; allow to return to the boil, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until cranberries begin to pop, about 5-7 minutes. Add a few rounds of cracked black pepper to taste. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. If you used whole anise stars, fish them out now before going on to the next step (unless pawing through a bowl of chunky burgundy chutney looking for chunks of barely-darker anise stars is your idea of a good time.)
In a bowl combine the dried fruits and the walnuts; if using fresh zest rather than dried, add it now. Add the cooked cranberry mixture to the bowl, and the apple cider vinegar. Add the sauteed chopped onion. Combine everything thoroughly, making sure fruits, nuts and onion are well-coated. Add the sweetener to taste, in increments, until satisfied, and adjust all seasonings to your liking. The taste at this point will probably be somewhat sharp.
Put into the refrigerator in a covered container, and allow to "rest" for at least 48 hours if possible; by then the flavors will have sufficiently "mellowed" and come together nicely.
Note: Cooked wheatberries stirred in any time after combining all other ingredients, even days later, add a chewy texture element. They also lend a heft that makes the chutney more substantive and filling; makes a nice breakfast or anytime treat.
It also solves the vexing question, "I got this because I'm trying to add whole grains to my diet but now what the heck do I DO with them?"
When Nancy Whitmarsh shared a photo she had taken of her husband Bill's Cranberry Pasta Sauce, served over angel hair, on the Fiddleheads FH page, of course we HAD to have the recipe. (Cranberries and garlic, over pasta? That is my kind of crazy-cool.) Fortunately Nancy was entirely gracious, and kind enough to share it with us.
Full disclosure: Bill Whitmarsh is someone I knew a thousands years ago, or so it seems, a friend of a friend and someone I thought entirely gone from my life. When I met him again this year at Fiddleheads Co-op for the first time in over 5 years I didn't know him at first. It's not that he looked older - he looked younger, if anything, strong, and bright and vibrant in a way I never knew he could be. He told me that, among other changes in his life, such as his new wife, Nancy, he had adopted a completely vegan diet: no eggs, no honey, no wiggle room and no excuses. If I ever do become a vegan, Bill and Nancy will probably be my primary role models on that path.
Bill Whitmarsh's Cranberry Pasta Sauce with Angel Hair Pasta
(Text below and photograph courtesy of Nancy Whitmarsh.)
What to do with those organic cranberries from Fiddleheads? There's more than just cranberry sauce to be made. How about adding sweetened cranberries to angel hair pasta with EVOO and garlic sauce. Hubby's creation of the day. Wow. He is an incredible cook. As you can tell he loves to cook, and I love to (eat and) photograph. What a great combo, huh?
So, here we go: One cup whole cranberries from the produce section. They were heated in a half cup of water and 2/3 cup organic sugar until they burst and liquid reduces. You want them to be sweeter rather than tart. In a separate skillet, saute a couple tablespoons of olive oil, small onion sliced, four cloves minced garlic, three shitake mushrooms cut into strips, quarter cup of scallions chopped small and leeks if you have them. Saute for 10 -15 minutes. Angel hair pasta is cooked as per package instructions. Drain and add pasta to the saute mixture. Allow pasta to absorb the saute juices, then top with cranberry mixture. The cranberries will have reduced down to a syrupy consistency. Toss one last time and serve. I was hesitant when he presented it, but I devoured this meal! Enjoy!
Correction: I had originally posted the link at top to Nancy's personal FB page; she requested a link to Brick and Stone, her page dedicated specifically to the vegan meals Bill creates (and she photographs). Done. 12/14/11
I've decided to bring back another golden "not-so-oldie" you may have seen previously on Catch A Falling Anise Star via the Fiddleheads FB page. I had challenged myself to make this year's batch of cranberry sauce with as little sweetener as possible; the photo below and recipe above are the happy results.
Years ago in North Carolina a friend invited me over to her cabin in the woods for a Thanksgiving feast; it was there, bubbling away atop her antique cast iron wood stove, that I first set eyes on homemade cranberry sauce. (Talk about atmosphere!) The sight of it hit me with the force of revelation. Before that it had never even occurred to me that it could be made at home, much less to attempt it. (In my own defense, it was the 1970's. If a foodstuff didn't come to the dining table from a can, jar, frozen lump, plastic bag, box or waxed bucket, it didn't exist.)
As a culture and a nation, I think it's fair to say that we had lost touch with the notion of "eating seasonally", thanks to developments in agricultural industry, and to year-round availability of items at the grocery stores. It's a concept that many of us are just now finding our way back towards. The exceptions have been certain holiday foods and traditions that have always been "seasonal" to a fault. Why, for instance, is cranberry sauce a "must" for the Thanksgiving table, but then gets short-shrift the remainder of the season? Is it due to memories - good and bad - of that wiggly red jellied stuff out of the cans, that oozed into our gravy on the plate? Perfect fun food for a five-year-old but hard to respect, much less love, once you've outgrown knee pants. This sauce, on the other hand - this sauce demands, and commands, respect. And love. Possibly total obedience. (You have your kinks, I have mine.)
Homemade Low-Sugar Cranberry Sauce
1 lb organic cranberries, rinsed, drained and culled
10 T organic maple syrup, or raw agave to taste (see Note at bottom)
1 T honey (optional)
good quality organic cranberry juice from concentrate (RW Knudson or Lakewood are good brands, but use your favorite brand)
2 organic valencia or juicing oranges
In a heavy-bottom pot put the cranberries and add enough cranberry juice to almost but not quite cover. Simmer on low, stirring frequently, being careful to avoid scorching; add the sweeteners and the entire pulp and juice of the two oranges. Add zest from the oranges if desired only if they are organic. Adjust sweetener to taste, simmer until mixture reduces to 1/3-1/2 and has the desired texture (I prefer mine a bit chunky); the sauce should have a rich rose-red color. Cool and refrigerate overnight; the flavors improve and mellow.
NOTE: Another co-op member tried this recipe with agave syrup instead of the maple syrup and had very good results with it. I know that there is a lot of controversy surrounding agave at the moment, and partisans on both sides (Dr Andrew Weil, for instance, notes that one needs less of it than other sweeteners because of it's concentration, and that it's his primary choice as a sweetener.) I don't keep it in my kitchen at the moment. That said, I would have used it for this if I'd had it at hand. I love it's "pourability" - thicker than maple syrup but thinner than honey - and it's neutral flavor. I leave the choice to you, gentle reader.
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Text and photos copyright 2011-2013 Janice Janostak unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.