Thursday, November 20, 2014

Not too many things say Thanksgiving like cranberry sauce

For me, one of the quickest, easiest, and tastiest things on the Thanksgiving table has to be homemade cranberry sauce. We’ve already had Thanksgiving up here in Canada, but the big day has yet to arrive south of the 49th parallel. If you’ve ever bought a can of what they euphemistically label “Cranberry Sauce” at the supermarket, opened it and then put that on your table, shame on you! Turkey with stuffing and gravy is a difficult part of the meal, dessert usually means something like pie, and those aren’t easy to make well, but cranberry sauce? Well, it doesn’t get much easier to cook from scratch than cranberry sauce.

I’ll bet most people who buy fresh cranberries at Thanksgiving simply read the recipe on the back of the bag and go with that. I did for about 10 years (I can only plead laziness, I guess). It turned out okay, but each year the amount of sugar bothered me more and more. When sugar is the first thing you taste, that’s not a good thing. Cranberries are pretty tart and need sugar, but the flavor is also pretty darn tasty, too. I want that hit of cranberry on my tongue first. Besides, a little tartness is a good thing. With that in mind, I began by adjusting the sugar down to a level where the berry flavor could shine through. Then running across a recipe that included zested orange and lemon peel as additions, I added those. Before I bought a zester, which makes beautiful long pieces of zest very quickly, I used to do it by hand, cutting off piece of peel and then trimming off the bitter white pith on the underside of the peel, not difficult, but somewhat time-consuming. Using a zester makes it a snap. Best of all, they’re dirt cheap. You can find them at any good kitchen supply store.

Finally, I had a brainstorm: I'd seen cranberry sauce recipes included orange juice, so why not drop the lemon peel, stick to orange (I now zest the entire peel), then juice it after and use that for the liquid? With a good-sized navel orange you get almost a cup of juice and that’s all you need for a bag (two cups) of berries.

Spices go excellently with cranberries, so I use just enough allspice, cloves, and nutmeg to compliment but not mask the fruit and that completes the recipe.

Make it a day in advance so the sauce’s ingredients can meld and improve. If you’ve put it in the fridge (recommended) to do this, bring it up to room temperature before serving so the aroma and flavors are at their peak. If you make it on the day, then just leave it on the counter.

After that, all you have to do is put it in a pretty serving dish, stick a spoon in, and you’ve got a lovely accompaniment to your turkey dinner!

Cranberry/Orange Sauce
Serves 10-12

1 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice (1 large navel orange)
orange zest from the orange (zest it before squeezing the juice out)
1 pkg fresh cranberries (3 cups)
½ cup light brown sugar
1 tsp allspice
½ tsp ground cloves
a bit of freshly-grated nutmeg


  1. Zest the orange then juice it. You should be able to get enough juice if the orange is big. If not, just make up the difference with water.
  2. Put the 1 cup of orange juice into a saucepan along with the sugar. Over medium heat, begin stirring to dissolve it.
  3. While that’s going on, rinse the cranberries in a colander. Throw away any that have brown spots. Now add the cranberries, orange zest and the three spices to the juice/water/sugar solution.
  4. Stirring occasionally, continue cooking over medium high heat until most of the cranberries have split open and the sauce is getting thick.
  5. If you’re not serving the sauce that day, refrigerate it, but bring it up to room temperature before serving for full flavor.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

What we’ve been up to the past month and a bit

Once fall rolls around, we seem to completely change our daily menu. Soups are more prevalent, as are soups and stews. We still had a bit of canning/preserving to get finished up. This year we left it too long and didn’t have access to our lovely local peaches (from Niagara), so we had to use others to make my wife’s terrific mango and peach chutney. That’s now completed and ready to enjoy. This year’s batch we made slightly hotter than in previous years. It’s lovely. We also experimented with pickled beets, which, while good, are probably going to need to be tweaked in the recipe department.

Once the basement cools off (below 60°F), we can begin our yearly meat curing. Up to now that’s included guanciale (hog jowl), pancetta (pork belly) and lonzino (boneless pork loin). We’re getting close which is a good thing. We have only one chunk (a half jowl’s worth) of guanciale left, 3 small packages of lonzino, and we’re pretty good for pancetta at the moment. This year, we’re also going to make some bresaola (cured dried beef) and maybe some duck proscuitto. (Update: the basement is now below 50° and things are looking positive so the first things we’re going to make is lonzino because we ate all that we made last year!)

Soups are also on the menu (we love soup around here) and the nice thing about soup is you can easily make enough in one go to enjoy it for several meals. It’s also an easy thing to take to work. Look for the soup maven around here (Vicki) to share some more of her terrific recipes: Pasta e Fagioli, Pumpkin, Manhattan Clam Chowder, French Canadian Pea Soup, and more. If you enjoy homemade soup, over the next few months, you’ll get your fill!

We also have a number of great stew recipes, and what’s better on a very cold night than a warming stew. We’ve shared a few of them, but there are many more to come. Look forward to Chicken Cacciatore, Ysgyryd Fawr Sausage Stew, Greek Stew, Chicken Stew, Brasso Steak, Pork Paprikash, Beef Short Ribs and even Cassoulet.

Finally, A Man for All Seasonings is not just about sharing food recipes. It’s also about the current state of farming, the food industry, and our food supply. I have a number of posts underway about all of these topics and they will be shared as soon as I’ve completed my research.

So while I’ve been very busy with my newly-released novel over the past month, I haven’t forgotten my food blog. Stay tuned for more!