Cranberries are a requirement for the Thanksgiving menu, but often they appear in the form of a jellied sauce at the back of the buffet table.
This year, jazz up the obligatory cranberry. Instead of opening a can, prepare fresh cranberries. You can serve cranberry salsa instead of sauce; make cranberry-orange salad in place of the molded gelatin salad; and for dessert, make cranberry cookies for the kids and a luscious cranberry cobbler for the grown-ups.
The cranberry will give your holiday meal an extra dose of nutrition. Cranberries are a good source of vitamins A and C, and they contain antioxidants and flavonoids that help protect us from cancer and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. They also contain lots of fiber, which aids in digestion and helps to lower cholesterol.
Cranberries are plentiful this time of year, so buy extra bags to freeze for later. When buying cranberries, which are usually packaged in 12-ounce plastic bags, make sure you're getting brightly and intensely colored berries.
If you leave the cranberries in the original, unopened bag, they will keep in the refrigerator for as long as two months and in the freezer for a year.
The best way to chop fresh or frozen cranberries, which do not need to be defrosted before use, is to use the "pulse" setting on a food processor with a metal blade. If you're cooking the berries, be sure to remove them from the heat when they pop, or they'll start to turn mushy and bitter.
Here are recipes to try this Thanksgiving.
Cranberry avocado salsa
1 yellow bell pepper
1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 ripe avocados, pitted, peeled, and diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Char bell pepper over gas flame or in broiler until skin has blackened on all sides. Place charred pepper in paper bag about 10 minutes to steam off skin. Peel, seed and chop pepper.
Combine cranberries, sugar and orange juice in food processor. Using pulse button, coarsely chop cranberries. Transfer to medium bowl. Add bell pepper, jalapeño and orange peel. (This can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Stir avocado and cilantro into salsa. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes 31/2 cups.
Source: Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association
Orange-cranberry tossed salad
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon ground mustard
Dash salt and pepper
3/4 cup canola oil
2 heads Boston or Bibb lettuce, torn
1 can (11 ounces) mandarin oranges, drained
Place cranberries in a baking pan; sprinkle with sugar. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
Place in a single layer on greased aluminum foil; cool for at least 30 minutes.
For salad dressing, combine orange juice, vinegar, honey, poppy seeds, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in oil. Just before serving, toss the lettuce, oranges and dressing in a large bowl. Sprinkle with candied cranberries.
Makes 12 servings.
From Taste of Home
Cranberry thumbprint cookies
12 ounces fresh cranberries
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup water
5 to 6 tablespoons sugar
11/2 cups sugar
11/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup shortening
In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, orange juice, water and 4 tablespoons sugar, over low heat. Cover and allow to cook, 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste, adding more sugar to desired sweetness. Cook an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until mixture thickens and most of the large cranberry pieces have dissolved. Cool in fridge.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, salt and baking soda. Stir in vanilla and egg. Add shortening, and combine well with pastry blender or spoon. Place rounded teaspoons of dough on greased cookie sheet (these should be small, making 32 cookies total, enough for two baking sheets). With your thumb, make a dent in each cookie, and add 1 teaspoon cranberry jam. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until edges begin to brown.
Five-minute cranberry-walnut cobbler
21/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup plus 3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 9-inch pie pan, combine cranberries, walnuts and 1/2 cup sugar, and toss until coated.
In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, melted butter, remaining sugar and almond extract until blended. Fold in flour and salt until combined. Pour batter over cranberry mixture. Bake 40 minutes, until crust is golden and fruit bubbles. Transfer to wire rack to cool.
Makes 8 servings.
From Debbie Macomber's Christmas Cookbook