Best Ways to Use Fresh Cranberries
It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving or Christmas without cranberries.
1. Cranberry sauce
Only the bravest iconoclast would do away with cranberry sauce on their Thanksgiving or Christmas dining table. Simple to make and an entirely sensible way to make these tart berries palatable, cranberry sauce may well have featured at the first ever Thanksgiving dinner back in 1631. It was certainly popular enough for travelling English author John Josselyn to mention in his 1672 book New England’s Rarities Discovered.
Feel like a change? There’s no need to stoke family tensions by abandoning the cranberry sauce tradition; instead add a creative twist to nudge it in a fresh direction. This could be as simple as adding a splash of warming sloe or damson gin to the simmering mixture. Fancy intensifying the festive flavours? Then introduce port and fragrant star anise. Or ramp up the exoticism still further with a Persian inspired pomegranate molasses and orange zest twist.
The festive party circuit calls for refreshment that captures the mood. Cranberries have established themselves as a mainstream presence in this field as a key ingredient of the popular Cosmopolitan cocktail, as well as its simpler cousin the Sea Breeze.
But don’t be afraid to add a seasonal spin to other classics: cranberry margaritas anyone? The natural tang of this fruit also lends itself well to a sharp, citrussy sours. If planning ahead is your forte then start those party preparations a few weeks in advance by making your own cranberry vodka. Whatever you choose, that vibrant red colour is sure to get everyone in the party mood – just make sure your outfit isn’t too perilously white.
3. Cakes & cookies
For more sober decadence, incorporate cranberries into your festive baking. That sharp, fruity tang works deliciously with a host of sweet, nutty combinations. Break yourself in gently with some macadamia and cranberry cookies. Or how about a civilised mid-morning coffee dipper of pistachio and cranberry biscotti?
Moving greedily into cake territory, add a Christmassy cranberry and orange angle to the classic Chelsea bun. Meanwhile chocoholics can bring an extra dimension to their brownies by stirring in a handful of cranberries and hazelnuts. If you’re reading this close to Stir Up Sunday then don’t forget to include cranberries in your fruit mix for that homemade Christmas cake, Christmas pudding or mince pie fillings.
If hot roast turkey calls for cranberry sauce, then the cold leftovers cry out for a cranberry-based chutney. This fruity yet often savoury preserve is also a perfect partner for the traditional Boxing Day ham. When it comes to the precise blend of chutney ingredients, let your creativity run free – or tweak according to your own particular seasonal glut. Apple and cranberry chutney is a tried and tested combination, but you can also add some festive seasoning by raiding the cupboard for ginger, cloves or cinnamon.
The word pie covers a mouth-watering array of sweet and savoury satisfaction, either of which can happily incorporate the sharp, fruity hit of cranberry. Just as cranberry chutney works beautifully with cold meat, so too the addition of this fruit adds an enlivening burst of juicy flavour to meat pies. Either add to the mix inside or, if it’s a pie designed to be eaten cold, top the short crust pastry lid with jewel-like cranberries to instantly elevate your creation from humble workers’ lunch to irresistible table centrepiece.
Alternatively round off the meal with a beautiful cranberry pie for dessert. Set off the fruit with a splash of almond essence or crunchy pecans, channel your decorative skills with a dainty pastry lattice, but whatever you do, don’t forget a generous scoop of vanilla ice-cream to finish.
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