It’s almost Thanksgiving here in the United States. Every time the holidays roll around, I do a lot of thinking — about what the holidays mean to me, what I’m doing, the people I love, and things like that.
When I was a kid, I loved Thanksgiving. Who didn’t? It was a day that revolved around delicious food and loving family. My parents divorced when I was two, which means that all I remember is switching back and forth between parents for holidays my entire life.
Cranberry sauce was always my favorite dish at Thanksgiving — not the turkey, not the sweet potatoes, not the stuffing — though admittedly only barely beating apple pie for the top spot.
My mother’s family always had the canned cranberry sauce — we were rather poor and my grandparents were always frugal, so it was one can only at Thanksgiving, and I was always only allowed a small cut ring of the gelatin (“Tracy, you’re taking too much, save some for the others!”). I’d carefully cut it into little pie-shaped wedges with my fork, savoring it slowly between bites of the rest of the meal.
On the other side: My father married my stepmother when I was 12, and her family introduced me to whole cranberry sauce. At first I was adamant that I wanted the jellied stuff, and they always made sure they had a can for me. But after a couple of years, I grew into the tarter, homemade cranberry sauce, and it then became my favorite dish.
I loved Thanksgiving with either of my families, I loved the food, and I loved the cranberry sauce.
My father died when I just turned 22. My mother died when I was 24. I spent many years ignoring the holidays altogether after they both were gone — disregarding both of my extended families and running to my cabin in the mountains, refusing the acknowledge the holiday and the pain that now accompanies it. It’s only been within the last couple years that I’ve started opening myself up to the holidays again, tentatively seeing family before or after the actual day (because I still can’t handle being around family on the day of while lacking my parents), and making new traditions with some close friends of mine.
Regardless of this history, cranberry sauce remains my favorite dish for Thanksgiving meals. I insist on being the one to bring the cranberry sauce to any gathering or event, because I’ve tried many recipes and tweaked many others until I’ve found the best tasting cranberry sauce I’ve ever had. It’s simple, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever made.
Enjoy your family, love your loved ones, eat lots of turkey, and above all — enjoy your cranberry sauce.
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cranberry Chutney. I love that this sauce is sweet, tart, and savory — the ginger and red-wine vinegar add such a perfect kick. I couldn’t stop licking the pan after it was completed.
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium shallot bulb
- 1 inch or so portion of fresh ginger
- 1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over
- 1 cup of water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
Peel and finely mince the shallot, resulting in about 1/3 cup minced shallot. Peel and grate the ginger for about 1 tbsp grated ginger.
Rinse and pick over the fresh cranberries, removing any mushy or odd berries.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-low until it shimmers. Add the shallots and ginger and cook until softened, about five minutes. Watch the amount of oil to make sure it doesn’t dry out and burn.
Add the cranberries, water, sugar, and red wine vinegar — bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
Cook (stirring often) until most of the berries have burst and the sauce as thickened considerably.
Remove from stove, season with salt and pepper, and let it come to room temperature to serve — or stick in the fridge to serve later. Keeps for about a week.
Enjoy, and much love from me to you.
This post is my entry into the Alt Summit Blog Contest sponsored by Wilsonart International, Inc.