Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Cranberries ~ Four Great Ways to Use Cranberries in Your Holiday Meals

This time of the year I'm using cranberries in many dishes, from salads through to desserts. So today I wanted to share a few simple ways to include this colorful berry in your meals which make the holiday foods more festive.

From our home to yours, Merry Christmas!
Perhaps one of the easiest and most traditional ways to use cranberries is to make a quick cranberry relish/chutney to serve alongside a roasted Christmas turkey or goose. Cooking them until tender and just starting to burst with some added orange juice (from one orange), orange zest and sugar is quick and simple. And you can do it ahead of time so it's ready for the table when your bird is done. I don't like to overcook them as I want them to still look somewhat fresh. I'm looking for a relish not a sauce or gelatin. While cranberries are quite tart, take care in the amount of sugar you add. You don't want to turn this into a dessert. It should be just tart-sweet to make a good cranberry relish. My recipe is below.

Julian's Cranberry Relish in the Making

Cranberry-Apple Relish

1 medium orange
2 cups water
1 Granny Smith apple
1 bag (3 cups or 12 ounces) cranberries, fresh
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Peel the bright outer orange skin (the zest) from the orange insuring you leave the white pith behind. Squeeze the juice from the orange, set aside and discard the solid membranes and pith. Put the zest into a saucepan with the water, bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes.  Drain, chop medium and set aside.

Peel, core and quarter the apple.  Chop the apple into small pieces and place in a saucepan.  Sort the cranberries, discarding any soft ones, and add to the chopped apple together with the orange peel, orange juice, sugar, cinnamon and cloves.  Place over medium-high heat, bring to a boil stirring occasionally, then reduce heat and simmer gently covered, until thickened.  Stir periodically. The apple should be tender and the cranberries should have burst.  This should take approximately 10-15 minutes.

Transfer to a bowl and let cool before serving.  (Can be covered and refrigerated but should be brought back to room temperature before serving.)

Cranberry Relish Makes for a Festive Plate
and Is Also Good on Turkey Sandwiches
Of course just sprinkling some dried sweetened cranberries on a salad will also be a welcome addition. Below I have a salad with fresh greens (arugula), apples, fresh mozzarella cheese and dried cranberries, with a simple vinaigrette dressing. Delicious and easy!

Christmas Salad
For dessert why not try an apple-cranberry crisp. Served with ice cream, the tartness of the apples and cranberries combined with a crumb topping (yet to be applied in the photo below) make for the perfect holiday dessert.

You can follow any of my crisp recipes already posted on this site or better yet, just toss some Granny Smith apples and fresh cranberries with sugar, cinnamon and corn starch and place them in a baking dish. Make some crumb topping using brown sugar, butter, a little flour, some oatmeal and a dash of cinnamon and salt and you have a great, easy dessert. If you've been measuring these things out from recipes found on my site or elsewhere, live a little. Just toss together what you think works and it won't be long before you are making crisps and crumbles of all kinds with no recipe at all. That's the joy of cooking! 

Finally, I'm going to give you my Aunt Rose's recipe for a cranberry jello salad. I know this may sound like a dessert, and sometimes she served it that way with whipped cream, but it really is a salad as the gelatin is just used to hold the ingredients together in a festive holiday wreath shape. It's not overly sweet and is always popular at my table as it has a nice cool, fresh crunch. For additional cranberry recipes such as cookies and biscotti, just search "cranberries" in my search box above left.

Cranberry Jello Salad with Orange Jello

Cranberry Jello Salad

12 ounces fresh cranberries
4 large carrots
4 large celery stalks
2 large boxes gelatin powder (orange, cranberry or strawberry)
2 cans frozen strawberries, lightly thawed (optional)

Chopped Carrots, Celery and Cranberries

Chop carrots and celery and all but a few of the cranberries, in food processor.

Prepare gelatin as directed on box and place in refrigerator, stirring occasionally until semi-set.

When gelatin is semi-set, add chopped ingredients and the optional strawberries, folding in gently.

Ladle into a jello mold or serving bowl and chill until set (3-4 hours)  To remove from mold, submerse mold to rim in warm water for a few moments and invert over serving plate.  Garnish with green leaves and the remaining cranberries.

Cranberry Jello Salad with Cranberry Jello

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