Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cranberries Grand Mariner with Crystallized Ginger

Ahh ... cranberries ... the jewel of the holiday season. I buy at least a dozen bags of fresh cranberries beyond what I use during the winter holidays. Properly stored in heavy duty freezer bags, fresh cranberries keep for up to a year. I can make Cranberry Upside Down Cake (recipe is on this blog); Cranberry Chutney, Cranberry Quick Bread, Cranberry Catsup, Cranberry Apple Pie, and Roast Pork with Cranberries throughout the year. When the freezer gets bare midwinter, those scarlet berries seem as valuable as bags of rubies. I'll be putting more cranberry recipes on this site in the weeks to come - but I'll start with this easy twist on Classic Cranberry Sauce. This is a large recipe - enough for a crowd with plenty for next-day Thanksgiving leftovers.


2-12 ounce bags fresh cranberries (direct from freezer is fine)
1-1/2 cups water
1-3/4 cups sugar, superfine preferred
1/2 cup Grand Marinier, Cointreau, or Grand Gala liqueur
Zest of one large lemon (colored part only)
Zest of one large orange (colored part only)
4 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger (found in the spice section)
1/4 teaspoon noniodized salt

Give the cranberries a quick rinse with a colander and pick out any stems or shriveled berries. Combine sugar, water, and liqueur in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and add the cranberries, lemon and orange zest, ginger and salt. Return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cool to to room temperature. Divide into two serving bowls and refrigerate until serving time.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Make Room at Your Thanksgiving Table

My mother believed that no one should be alone during the holidays, especially Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. From the time she and my father were first married, she established a tradition of extending invitations to those who had no where to go on any given holiday. Consequently, we always had a diverse and colorful crowd at the table! Once, when I was a child, there was an unfamiliar woman sitting across from us. My brother asked if I knew who she was. I said, "mom met her at the pharmacy while getting a prescription filled." He said, "do we know her?". I replied, "well, we do now!".

One year, when my mom was in her late sixties, she invited more than 40 people for Thanksgiving dinner. I should mention that she lived in a one-bedroom condo, albeit with a formal dining room. I said, "where in Heaven's name are you going to seat these people?" She said, "you worry too much! We'll borrow chairs and tables and put some people in the living room and foyer and set up a long table in the entrance hall!" "Across from the elevator?" "Sure, that way if they're late they can step off the elevator and go directly into a chair!" "Uh, mom, how are you going to feed all these people?" "Stop worrying! Charlotte and Rose (the neighbors across the hall) have a commercial stove and two wall ovens. We'll have two turkeys. It's all arranged!" She managed 38 at tables and I went over and ate my dinner with the neighbors. My mom sat in a corner adjacent to the dining room table and close to the kitchen. There were only two condo units per floor - so both front doors were propped open and it became a two-condo flowing party. It was great! There was only one mishap. Mom had borrowed an extra bowl from Charlotte. It was a bowl that had reputedly once belonged to the Romanovs - Nicholas II used that bowl! It was worth a small fortune! Somehow, in carrying the mashed potatoes from the kitchen to the dining room, she dropped the bowl and it shattered. Mom felt terrible but Charlotte was a real sport. In Charlotte's mind, the greater sin would have been to be unforgiving or ungracious. "No sense crying over mashed potatoes!"

When I was in college, my mom always encouraged me to bring a friend or two home for Thanksgiving dinner. When her grandchildren when off to college, they were likewise encouraged. The older mom got, the more liberal and tolerant she became. She didn't care about a person's sexual preference, color, or ethnic background. Jew, Bahá'í, Hindu or Atheist - you were always welcome at her table. It didn't matter if you were a bricklayer, physician, or postal worker, if you didn't have a place to go, mom would see to it that you were included.

This year, consider inviting someone new to your table. We often assume that people we know have a place to go on a holiday. I can assure you that this is often not the case. It could be a colleague or co-worker, a neighbor, a lady at church who recently lost her husband, or a college student from a foreign country. We've become an isolationist society, afraid to move out of our comfort zones. We're afraid to share our comforts too, as if we might somehow lose them in the process. Nonsense! Don't worry if you don't have enough chairs or dishes - make it work. Even Martha Stewart says that mixing and matching china is fashionable! Reach out to others - you'll have a wonderful time, it'll be good for the kids, and you'll make new friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!