Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The annual cranberry battle

It's October, with Thanksgiving hard upon us, and food magazines are filled with cranberry recipes, most of which I applaud. But my family has an annual cranberry battle. I grew up with a raw cranberry relish, made of apples, oranges, cranberries and some but not too much sugar--it should be tart and not sweet. I remember my dad getting our the small green step-ladder onto which he attached a hand grinder and painstakingly grinding the ingredients. It was an all-evening chore. But we loved the result.
Few in my family will eat it, though one man--married to my sister-in-law's sister--loves it. We used to all get together for Thanksgiving, but now our children's families have gotten too big.
There are sixteen in my family and seventeen in my brother's. So I haven't given Kevin cranberry relish in several years. My kids can take it or leave it--mostly the latter--so I rarely bother. Two daughters-in-law insist on that canned, gelatinous stuff that I can't abide.
But I've seen interesting recipes of late for cranberries. One was a cooked cranberry sauce with too much sugar, a bit of orange, and a fourth cup of cognac. Interesting touch, and I'd be willing to try that, though I'd doctor the recipe.
Another though reminded me once again that this whole country seems determined to "Mexicanize" our foods--we put peppers (which I don't much like) and cumin (which I do like) in everything. Come on, in cranberry sauce? Nope, it just doesn't belong. I was surprised there was no cilantro. But this was a recipe for using leftover turkey for sandwiches. It had all the right things--bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheese--and the cranberry was a discordant note. Besides, in my experience, if you have turkey left over, it's not the nice white slices of breast meat that are so good for sandwiches--it's odd bits and pieces of dark meat. Makes better hash than sandwiches--and no, I don't want cranberries in my turkey hash (that's a whole other subject, but I love turkey hash made of leftovers).
Cranberries in baking are another thing. I love chocolate chip/cranberry cookies or fruit bread with cranberries. One year, feeling very domestic, I took a loaf of fruit bread to a daughter-in-law's house--I think it had apricots, prunes and cranberries. She took one look and said, "I won't eat it." I stuck it in the freezer and took it home a few days later.
Maybe I just don't keep up with food trends--but cranberries seem sort of trendy to me today. Dried cranberries in salads for instance. So I can't chalk it up to being out of step with the times.
I'll continue to long for cranberries with my holiday turkey-but not cumin or jalapenos, please. And nothing out of a can.

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