Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving Feast - Part 1: Cranberry Chutney

This week is American Education Week, and Kara's school is celebrating by hosting workshops and inviting parents in to visit the classrooms. I am a little shocked that I didn't even know American Education Week existed considering I was a teacher. But I am so glad that such a week exists - I love any excuse to get to see what happens in Kara's school, not to mention, any excuse to tell our teachers how amazing they are. By the way, today is Teacher Appreciation Day - a perfect day to tell your kid's teacher how much you value his/her work.

Dave and I were so excited to spend some time with Kara in her classroom where we got to do "math workshop" together. One of my favorite parts was getting a chance to look at all of the student work around the room. Gotta love elementary school teachers - their classroom decorating skills are out of this world. My favorite piece was Kara's picture/answer to the prompt: "What makes you happy?" To which she answered, "Playing with my brother". Seriously, I almost started to cry. But the thing that made me chuckle was her answer to the question: "What is your favorite thing about  Thanksgiving?" She answered, "Having a feast." Girl after my own heart!

For reasons that I don't entirely understand, I have been fretting about Thanksgiving dinner this year. I can't quite explain why. I have made the Thanksgiving "feast," as my daughter calls it, many times. But for some reason, this year I have been paralyzed by all of the choices out there. My usual tendency would be to try all kinds of new things, but I am only cooking for four adults and two kids so serving three kinds of stuffing seems a little overboard.

Yesterday, I took a step towards ending my Turkey Day Anxiety Syndrome and cooked up some cranberry sauce and some cranberry chutney. Now, I really like canned cranberry sauce of any variety - even the jellied kind that shows the rings from the tin can. But on Thanksgiving, I think it is only right to make your own cranberry sauce from scratch - especially since making cranberry sauce "from scratch" is one of the easiest aspects of the feast. Brace yourself, it's pretty complicated:
  • Rinse a bag of cranberries.
  • Put in a pot with 1 cup of orange juice and 1 cup of sugar.
  • Cook at a simmer until the berries pop and the sauce thickens. 
But because I am a freak and because I love all kinds of chutney, I decided to make cranberry chutney too. This is a little more involved, but I would still classify it as "easy" cooking all around. I basically adapted the recipe from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I doubled the recipe - I wanted to preserve jars to give as holiday gifts.

This makes a spicy, sweet and thick chutney. I tried some on my chicken last night, and it was superb.

-In a large sauce pan combine:
  • 1 bag (or about 3 cups) fresh cranberries
  • 1-2 cups onions finely chopped. I used half red and half white.
  • 1/2 to 1 cup dried pineapple chopped. (In my recipe search, I saw many  that called for chopped fresh pineapple, so I think I would try that next time. Let me tell you, chopping dried pineapple was a pain. And it wasn't easy to find dried pineapple that didn't contain extra "pineapple flavors". What the heck? That is scary.)
  • 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh ginger finely chopped
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1/4 cup orange juice - plus more if the chutney gets to thick
  • 1 cup vinegar - I used half red wine and half cider.
-Bring up to a boil and then reduce heat so mixture simmers for about 15 minutes. Then add:
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1-2 cups sugar depending on your tastes. I recommend starting with one cup and adding extra as you go along.
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or pepper flakes
-Simmer gently for about 15 more minutes - it will thicken when it cools, so don't worry if it seems runny. Also, don't fret if it seems a little too acidic initially, it mellowed quite a bit when it cooled.
-If you are going to preserve some, prepare jars/lids, leave 1/2 inch headspace and process 10 minutes.

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