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.