Monday, November 17, 2008

My Favorite Brandied Cranberry Sauce

I really love cranberries. I attribute this to a very positive early experience with them. During the time that my grandmother lived at the family farm, she always hosted our family Thanksgiving. She and her sisters would prepare the dinner. They were all good cooks, each bringing her own special gifts to our Thanksgiving table.

One of my grandmother's Thanksgiving specialties was yummy cranberry jello. It was a simple, yet elegant blend of tart Indian Trail cranberry relish mixed into sweet red jello. I guess part of the appeal of this cranberry jello to small children was the mitigated pucker factor. And let's face it, those nasty, mushy gray-green Brussels sprouts could not hold a candle to a wiggly red molded wonder. To my already discerning palate though, there was also that satisfying crunch from the cranberries inside the jello squish.

When it came time for me to host my own Thanksgiving years later, I needed the cranberry part of my Thanksgiving memories on that table so far from home. Jello was no problem, of course, but the Indian Trail did not extend to my little corner of NC. I was forced to do what I discovered was going to be a necessary element to my success as a young cook far away from all that was taken for granted at home -- deconstructing and reconstructing a recipe.

Of course, making a simple cranberry-orange-sugar relish was not complicated. Just chop till your arm aches, and keep on chopping. Yeah, in the pre-Cuisinart era, I didn't even have a food grinder. But I persevered and created an acceptable substitute for my grandmother's cranberry jello that year, and forever after.

Since then, I've developed a real thing for cranberries and I've collected several good recipes. I love those little red pop-beads with the tart crunch. A turkey sandwich is a rare and special treat when sauced with some sort of cranberries and cushioned with stuffing and lettuce. And almost any cranberry sauce will enhance any of the other seasonal roasted meats or fowl.

I realize that my fondness for cranberries places me in the minority. But c'mon, a grainy cylinder wiggling around on the Thanksgiving table does not have much to do with the real cranberry. Keep it on the table if you must, I'm not here to stomp on your holiday memories. I've been known to slice a slab for a turkey sandwich, when necessary.

Is this the year you'll set out for a new world of abundant goodness, free from cylindrical cranberry sauce? We'll probably have at least three kinds on our Thanksgiving table -- the wiggly cylinder for my son, our traditional cranberry relish jello mold now made by my mother, and a newer favorite I make from a recipe in a very old issue of Victoria magazine.

Brandied Cranberry Sauce is so delicious -- a little bit sweet, a little bit tart, with a little crunch, and a little punch. Gobble, gobble!


(adapted from Victoria Magazine, November 1995)

1 lb. (3-4 c.) fresh whole cranberries
3/4 c. real maple syrup or maple-flavor syrup
1/2 c. brandy
1/2 c. sugar
finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
big dash of cinnamon
big dash of ginger
big dash of cardamom

Rinse cranberries and remove damaged berries. In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, maple syrup, brandy, sugar, orange zest and juice, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium. Continue simmering, stirring constantly, until all berries have popped and the sauce is a velvety juice, about 6-7 minutes. Serve cold with roasted turkey, meats, or on a turkey sandwich.


Maris said...

Cranberry sauce is definitely one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving dinner! It's so good that I usually eat turkey without gravy and just add cranberries :o)

Becky said...

Cora, I love your graphic with this post. :-) And I love brandied cranberry sauce too.

I have a little something for you.

Cora said...

Maris and Becky - I never met a cranberry I didn't like. Nice to know I'm in such good company.

Unknown said...

I have used Indian Trail Cranberry Relish for Thanksgiving for many years. I could not find it this year and was told in two diffeerent stores that they do not make it anymore. Do oyou know if this is true?

Cora said...

Lorraine, I live in Illinois and I found Indian Trail at my local Schnuck's grocery this year, as usual. Check this link for Bay Valley Foods - - which lists it as one of their products. Good luck!