Looking at a recent poll of “What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food?” – and no surprise on the responses. All the heavy hitters getting their praise: Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole. And no doubt! They are some of my favorites too, but sadly we overlook the one piece of Thanksgiving that brightens it all up. The seasonal pop of color on the table – the cranberry sauce.
Sadly, the idea of cranberry sauce is this gelatin cylinder log with rigged indentations that just lays on the plate jiggling with every bum. It’s an American tradition! Cranberries have always been a staple in the American diet dating back to pre-colonal times. And to clarify, the berries not the gelatin cylinder. Cranberries were used to dye fabric, eat and medicine. The first notation of the cranberry sauce was in 1796 in American Cookery, where Amelia Simmon’s recommends turkey with cranberry sauce and boiled onions. I am sure that with the importing of sugar helped encourage this dish. Because as we known, cranberries are a loud tart!
Loud tart! – please don’t yell that in the streets. I use the word loud beause well, popping a single cranberry in your mouth is your who mouth is filled with this tart, sour sharp flavor. That flavor is taking over loud and proud! It is because of this sharpness that we tend to shy away from eating cranberries. Truth is the benefit is small introductions with large bits of your turkey or stuffing, help to brighten the flavors. Think of it like that friend who enters the room with a loud “I’m here!” song and dance and you’re standing next to them – you’re gonna get notices, and associated with the fun delightful greetings. Same things for the cranberry and turkey bite! The idea of a loud tart flavor profiled with a heavy meaty dish, think of Swedish Meatballs with lingonberry. Or in Middle Eastern food, the pop of pomegrante seeds over spicy dishes and yogurts to lift the palete brightening the dish.
So let’s talk about how to balance flavors that are sour. The opposite of the sour is sweet, which is always the answer. The other option is spicy. Which opens the door to my go to,most requested Thanksgiving side – Cranberry Jalapeno Sauce. This sauce has jalapeno, cilantro, green onion and cumin with of course sugar and lemon juice. No boil needed. This sauce mixed with mayo the next day for leftover sandwiches, or tranform into a dip drizzling the sauce over a brick of boursin cheese with crackers. I love multi-use recipes!!
Cranberry Jalapeno Sauce
1 12oz bag of fresh or frozen cranberries
3 green onions, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and quartered
1/4 cup cilantro, rough chopped
3/4 cup sugar (add more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
pinch of salt
Add all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse on high for about 1 minute. Check the texture – if not finely minced, then pulse for longer. Transfer to bowl, and refrigerated for at least an hour. Flavors will develop as they sit, allowing the sugar and tart cranberries to join together. Can be made 3 days of service.