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Thanksgiving 101: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving 101: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce
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Jill Clark and I have been cooking together since she was in Dr. Denton’s. We’ve had so many great holidays together that The Making of the Cranberry Sauce is an annual event. And it’s taken place all over the map—even in Hong Kong. Several years ago, Jill moved to Dublin, met a wonderful man and we all went there to celebrate Thanksgiving. Finding the cranberries alone was a terrific challenge, just the first of many.

Jill and me in Ireland

Above, Jill and me in Ireland.
Knowing that our assignment would include the making of the ultimate accompaniment to Turkey, I went into Williams-Sonoma where I was sucked into buying “A delicious alternative to traditional cranberry sauce, this mold makes a beautiful presentation at the table. It is a natural partner for the Thanksgiving turkey” for an atrocious amount of money. 

Worse still, the mold weighed a ton and when we got to the airport we had to pay an additional $50.00 for the suitcase containing the thing. 

Then there was the joy of trying to find cranberries in the Irish capital. While there was some evidence that the Irish are familiar with the bird, if not the holiday, there was an amazing dearth of the fruit. 

You can see from this photo that the Irish love to celebrate the holiday the way they love to celebrate everyday—with a lampshade on their heads. 

When they were finally located, they were found at Fallon and Byrne, an amazing grocer where everything is beautifully displayed and about more expensive than anywhere you’ve ever shopped in your whole life. Certainly for cranberries. 

Finally the big day came and Jill dutifully followed the instructions that came with the mold, trying to achieve the results so prominently displayed on the box it came in. A beautiful pineapple appears in the picture, a univeral symbol of hospitality. Here’s what ours looked like:

This year, Jill and her new husband and Andrew and I will be celebrating the holiday in Lord’s Valley PA with our friends Roger and Paul. We’ll have this delicious relish along with our Brooklyn Farmer’s Market turkey.  You can make this today and get ahead of the game.   The recipe has been voted into our Hall of Fame. It is simply delicious, very textural and as beautiful to look at as it is to eat. And thank god, it doesn’t require a mold. It can easily be doubled and likely should be if you are serving more than 12 people. Here’s the recipe:

Recipe for the Ultimate Cranberry Citrus Relish
12 ounces of fresh cranberries 

1 ¼ cups of sugar
½ cup red wine
1 cinnamon stick 
¼ cup crystallized ginger
1 unpeeled orange, sliced, seeds removed
1 unpeeled lemon, sliced, seeds removed
¼ cup golden raisins
2 tbsp. water

1. Reserve ½ cup of cranberries from a 12-ounce bag of cranberries, emptying the rest into a saucepan.

2. Add the sugar, the red wine, the cinnamon stick, the ginger, the orange, the lemon and the raisins and 2 tbsp. of water to the saucepan.
3. Cook over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries soften, about 10 minutes. 
4. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries burst about 12 minutes more.
5. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the reserved cranberries. Add more sugar and salt and pepper to taste and let the relish cool to room temperature before serving. 

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