Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Gift, Some Booze, and a Bit of Honey

My friend Johana recently gifted me with a partial bag of frozen cranberries. Now, she is not familiar with a lot of more "native" North American foods, being from Columbia and living in a Columbian household after immigrating to Canada. While she wasn't up on what cornmeal was (let alone cornbread - in any sense of the word), she is a wealth of information and great ideas and recipes that she considers commonplace at home. She came over around the holidays to discover what the deal was with those shortbread cookies I had talked her ear off about, and to learn how to make apple pie - something she had asked me about before. I had to default to my mom on those fronts... I might be a baker, and I am proud of my pies, but Mom is still the quintessential "benchmark" of perfection in my pastry kitchen. In exchange for the "lessons" she's be learning by my mother's side, my mom asked for Johana to show her how to make one of the meals I had talked her ear off about! I never did get down the full recipe, but I know there was rice, shrimp, peas, tomatoes, onion, garlic and a red pepper in there. Looked and smelled divine though!


But back to the cranberries. Johana had discovered a love for Craisins that she had tasted in cookies and trail mixes, and figured that since raisins were nothing but dehydrated grapes, Craisins would be nothing but dehydrated cranberries, and the fresh fruit would taste the same. So, she bought a bag of them as a snack to take with her to work and school - but if you're familiar with cranberries at all, you'll know how she reacted to the sour / bitter berry in it's unadulterated state! Knowing that I bake, she asked me if I'd be able to use them for something... well funny she should ask- I had a partial bag kickin' around myself after a couple "cake" type things (one's here, the other will be posted soon [I hope!]) and this batch of cookies. Combined, the total was roughly a full bag's worth of fruit. But with the departure of my mom on a business trip and nobody else being a huge fan of them, what the heck was I going to do? I didn't even have opportunities to pawn off anything baked, really!

So I turned to the one thing I knew would both use up all the berries and store for a decent amount of time: cranberry sauce! But I didn't want to make the run-of-the-mill, sickly sweet kind that is soooo popular on the holiday tablescape. We'd just had three weeks of concentrated feasting onslaught, so a change would be nice. Something that turned cranberry sauce on it's head - something more savoury. So I went through my spice cabinet and came up with not only the traditional cinnamon and cloves (I can't omit those, I just can't!) but also curry powder and some of my home grown thyme that I had dried out. Hmm, interesting combination, but it sounded promising! I saw the dregs of some of my mom's homemade applesauce in the fridge, so that went in too, and to sweeten it I emptied out my honey jar. The honey worked really well with the curry, thyme and berries since it sweetened without becoming like a "candy" taste. Then for good measure, I drowned the pot in wine. Okay, well I didn't drown it, but I did add a good dose of it. Because everything's better with wine, right??


So after letting the berries simmer away in their nice hot boozy bath, I mashed about half of them to help thicken the mix and cooked it down some more until it was spoonable, slightly spreadable, but definitely not jellied. I cannot stand jellied cranberry sauce. It's just... wrong.

Drunken Cranberry - Honey Sauce
Serves 12
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen cranberries
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
1 tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp curry powder
½ cup honey
1 tbsp brown sugar
¾ cup dry red wine (I recommend M. Chapoutier "Les Vignes de Bila-Haut" CĂ´tes du Roussillon-Villages 2008)
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. If needed, add just enough water to cover the berries.
  2. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until half the berries have burst and the mixture is thickened.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 67.7
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 2.2 mg
Total Carbs: 16.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.7 g
Protein: 0.1 g