Did everyone have a tasty (and overly filling) Thanksgiving? Good.
Since I became a vegetarian, Thanksgiving has lost a lot of its charm. We always gathered at my Grandma’s house, and like a good Iowa farm-wife, she offered three (count ’em three!) kinds of meat: capon, beef, and ham. In addition there were mashed potatoes (which I’ve never liked, yes, I do know that this makes me a freak of nature), salad, cranberries, rolls, spinach balls (the best part!), and funeral casserole – a vegetable casserole so-named because a friend of my grandmother always brought it to funerals. As you can see, limited options for me, although I never was as uncomfortably full as the rest of my family.
In recent years I have been unable to travel home for Thanksgiving, and while missing out on family time is unfortunate, I have greatly appreciated being able to eat (almost) everything that was served. I think my years of Thanksgiving deprivation have led to the need for a hedonistic orgy of food on the occasion. (Seriously, it’s getting a little extreme).
So where am I going with this? Basically, I made A LOT of food for the holiday, and now have a million recipes to blog, so be prepared for a lot of party-food recipes in the coming weeks. For today, I’ve decided to write about the only recipe I made that is really a Thanksgiving recipe, although I don’t think it should be limited to this one holiday.
I adore cranberry sauce – it goes great with fall and winter vegetables, on a thick slice of bread, or just by itself. A few years ago, when I discovered how easy it was to make, I bought a bag of cranberries every couple of weeks while they were in season and just made cranberry sauce to have on hand. Two weeks ago we found a beautiful heart-shaped mold at Goodwill and decided that this year we should have a molded cranberry sauce. This is just as easy to make as normal cranberry sauce, although it does require some fanagling (and pounding, and swearing) to get the sauce out of the mold. And while everyone adds orange to their cranberry sauce, the addition of ginger adds a level of complexity to the sauce that’s just fabulous.
When looking at recipes for molded cranberry sauce, most use gelatin. This recipe uses the “cook the heck out of the cranberries” method, which I prefer.
Most cranberry sauce recipes (molded and non-molded) say to cook the cranberries until they burst, (sometimes the recipe will give you a time window as well). In my experience this is a useless direction, as the cranberries start bursting almost instantly. The consistency of the sauce is whats important. This is just a pet peeve of mine.
This recipe makes the perfect amount of sauce for a 3-cup mold. If your mold is larger, scale the recipe up, keeping in mind that 4 cups of fresh cranberries yields slightly less than 3 cups sauce.
Don’t be afraid of the mold. Your cranberry sauce will come out, you may just need to bang on it a lot first.
4 cups fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Zest of one orange
1-2 tsp fresh grated ginger
Combine the sugar and water in a medium pot and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolved the sugar. Continue boiling for 10 minutes to form a thin syrup.
Add the cranberries, orange zest, ginger and salt. Return to a boil, and boil uncovered for 20 minutes, until sauce is very thick. (You want the cranberry sauce to look like jelly or preserves, so thick that it will cling to a spoon if you turn the spoon vertical).
Spray your mold with cooking spray, and pour the sauce into the mold. Allow to cool at room temperature for an hour, and then cool completely in the fridge (5 hours or overnight).
To serve, run a knife around the edge of the mold and invert onto a serving plate. (Just kidding! Place the mold in a pan of hot water that almost reaches the top of the mold. Let stand for 30 seconds – 1 minute, run a knife around the edge of the mold and invert onto a plate. Bang on the mold. Pick the mold up and slam it [gently] onto the plate. Repeat until cranberry sauce emerges in all its glory). Garnish with orange wedges.