When it comes to cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving I am a purist. This makes me an anomaly in my family, for whom Thanksgiving is the most important day of the year, trumping every holiday or other opportunity to celebrate in the calendar. My mother's family religiously convenes on the East Coast, but when I’m unable to join, I continue the tradition and gather fellow stranded ex-pats around my table.
Thanksgiving in London does not rival the feast produced by my mother, her sister, their four first cousins and their respective families. After months of intense menu planning via group skype chats, reply all emails and long distance phone calls, everyone is assigned a dish or two including variations for vegans, paleos and the like. As well as a food intolerances, we also carry the inescapable and dominant 'type A' personality gene. On Thanksgiving, this ensures that most attendees, in addition to their assigned dish, are guaranteed to bring an additional unauthorised item that they just haveto share with The Gang. Result: an overflowing buffet with multiples of everything.
The only element of the meal with intentional multiples is cranberry sauce. Each Gang Member has their own particular favourite: Mama Stamberg's; Raw Cranberry and Orange Relish;Ocean Spray, (unequivocally the only shop bought item on the table) and Cranberry Chutney. While they are all delicious, my relish of choice is from my first cooking bible, The Joy of Cooking, and it is the springboard for today’s recipe. I love the original version for its tart, just popped cranberries in their orange/cinnamon/sugary/spiced syrup. It is ultimately the perfect condiment sitting alongside the main dishes in all its shiny jeweled glory.
For this year’s London feast I have adapted my old staple thanks to some extended research tips from a few new online friends and a yearning desire to update my tried and true cranberry bars with the leftovers.Rowley Leigh’s star anise, Anja Dunk, Mimi Beaven and Jen Goss's cloves (from their co-authored book Do Preserve) and Gwen Bueno De Mesquita’s pears are all now officially included in mine.
So here we have it. My still very simple, but slightly revised cranberry sauce, ready for any occasion at all, even if it is just to make the filling for cranberry bars. And for those who just love a condiment with any chicken, game, meat, salmon, mackerel, or dolloped on ice cream and waffles, this is a perfect winter treat.
For all of you giving Thanks this week, hope yours is a feast to remember. For those celebrating Christmas next month, I hope that you include this in your spread. And if, like me, you love cranberry sauce with everything, I hope you enjoy this all season long.
Note: If using frozen cranberries do not defrost first, just cook for a few minutes longer and do not add 1-2tbsp water as stated below.
400g fresh (or frozen) cranberries
100g (1/2 cup) soft brown sugar
1 large pear, peeled and grated in the large section of a box grater
zest and juice of 1 orange (preferably organic)
1 large cinnamon stick
2 star anise
Rinse and pick over the cranberries, discarding any ones that have already turned and place in a small/medium saucepan
Add grated pear.
Rinse and zest the orange. I do this in large strips with a potato peeler and remove them after cooking (mainly for speed), but you can also use a zester and not remove the zest.
Squeeze the orange over the cranberries
Add the cinnamon, cloves and star anise, and sprinkle over 1-2 tbsp cold water (depending on how juicy your orange is).
Bring up the boil on medium heat and stir. Cook for 10-12 minutes until the cranberries start to pop.
Transfer to a glass jar or bowl. This will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.