Yes, the 2013 Holiday season is upon us. I am looking this year for some different ideas, twists on our usual menus that give us something new but comfortable. I have had enough of those who want to make odd dishes for Thanksgiving, though I don't object to it. It's just that the Holidays ought to make us feel the continuity of life (although you are used to having lasagna for Thanksgiving every year, I suppose it would) and culture.
The American culture has fixed some menus into our end-of-year observances, and although they are familiar, they need not be entirely repetitive. And to that end, I got my latest Cooking Club magazine this week and it has just what I am writing about, right there on its back cover, where you will find a recipe for Warm Cranberry-Sherry Relish, courtesy of Holland House. Making cranberry sauce or relish is quite simple, and doing it every year is something that can be done well ahead of time, so that all you have to do is take it out of the refrigerator and place it in a serving dish on The Day. However, I do have my own preferences, which I will share with you in this recipe.
If you start checking, you can probably find fresh cranberries available already in Tucson, especially at neighborhood supermarkets like my nearby Fry's Supermarket or the Safeway up at Campbell and Broadway. Fresh cranberries are now available just about all year around, but buying them now can be smart, in that you could freeze them to prepare a little closer to Thanksgiving or Christmas.
But I must express a concern about an odd thing that happened over the weekend. I was at the Fry’s Supermarket at Campbell and Irvington. I have already complained about what seems to be a truly incomprehensible re-arrangement in the store—which they told me was going on at all the Fry’s markets in Tucson—but I went there looking for products from Bob’s Red Mill, such as Spelt flour. A manager there told me that they have never carried it, but that they will when their remodeling process is complete. Well, that is simply not true; that particular Fry’s used to have a health-food section and health-oriented products in its various departments. If they are indeed putting in health food, then they are reinstating departments that they closed out, and not putting in something new and attractive to customers.
I realize that there is quite a bit of turnover in employees, and perhaps this manager doesn't realize that I have been shopping at that supermarket for more than ten years (along with many other neighborhood residents). I know what has been sold there over those years and what has never been on their shelves. Why he said that to me I don’t know, but I would prefer to think he didn't know than to think that he was being dishonest in an effort to save face. But the Fry’s on Campbell and Irvington once had a health-food department, and they took it down, and now apparently they are putting it back in. Fine—but until I know that it has happened I will continue to shop elsewhere.
We have all had the frustrating experience of looking for something all over town close to Thanksgiving Day and being unable to find it. Cranberries are quite likely to be among those items, although canned cranberry sauces are usually available. I have opted for it once in awhile, and that brings me to my first preference: smooth sauce rather than whole-berry sauce.
The pairing of cranberries with oranges is also a classic, and I do that by using grated orange zest. There is a simple recipe for Cranberry Sauce on the back of most packages of berries as well, and if you want to remember it, just take one cup of sugar and a half-cup of water, and boil it up with the sorted cranberries until it thickens. But there can be more to Cranberry Sauce than that, and thanks to Holland House I came up with an idea that will work.
SHERRIED CRANBERRY SAUCE
1 package of whole fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/2 cup dry Sherry wine
Grated zest of 1 orange
Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook it over medium heat until it thickens.
Lower the heat and simmer the sauce for 15 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking to the pan.
Remove from the heat and let cool. When the cranberry sauce is no longer hazardous, pass it through a food mill to remove peels and most seeds. Transfer the sauce to an airtight storage dish and refrigerate until you serve it.
Cranberry Sauce jells as it cools, so you can mold it easily if you like.
Another item that becomes hard to find close to Thanksgiving are the various spices that are used in making Pumpkin Pie. So it would be a smooth move to get them soon, if you are not stocked up on spices already. I normally do not use Pumpkin Pie Spice (or Apple Pie Spice), but they do make it simple to make a fast pie without too much fuss.