Tradition has it that a Thanksgiving turkey dinner is not complete without cranberry sauce. Tradition also has it that every November, I find myself scratching my head, trying to reimagine cranberry sauce.
I have nothing against cranberries, mind you -- nor a sauce, for that matter. I couldn’t imagine the holiday table without a heaping bowl of glistening ruby berries simmered into a tart compote. Yet each year, I make a cranberry sauce and present it at the table. And each year, I wrap up the sauce after our meal, nearly untouched, and store it in the refrigerator for goodness-knows-what future purpose. I am not sure if this is a problem unique to my family, or if it’s a hushed issue shared by others, too embarrassed to voice their cranberry dysfunction in public. Let me know if you have any insight.
Nevertheless, each year I persevere and make a cranberry sauce -- but now I make it with a twist. A straightforward cranberry sauce consists of cranberries and sugar, which (to me) is one-dimensional. Why not step out of the comfort zone and make a jazzy sauce that can be creatively repurposed? I jack up my sauce, transforming it into what could also be called a chutney -- in other words, a condiment that has legs: a tasty, vibrant sauce that will carry you through the entertaining season.
Chutneys are a raucous sludge of fresh and dried fruit simmered in a sweet, sharp bath of citrus, maybe vinegar, perhaps a splash of spirits, and infused with sweet whole spices, savory aromatics and a kick of heat. A sweet and puckery chutney will provide a little extra bling to your Thanksgiving while seamlessly multitasking beyond the turkey dinner, because, yes, there may be leftovers. Spread it on a sandwich, serve it on a cheese and charcuterie board, dab it on cocktail crostini, or spoon a dollop alongside a beef roast or pork loin. Who knows? You might be very pleased this year when you have a lot of cranberry sauce left over after Thanksgiving.
Cranberry Bourbon Chutney
Active time: 25 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes, plus overnight chilling
Yield: Makes about 2 cups
12 ounces cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
3 coins cut from a finger of fresh ginger
1 (3-inch) sprig fresh rosemary
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
Zest of one orange
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries burst and the chutney thickens, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from the heat and cool completely. Discard the ginger, rosemary sprig and cinnamon stick. Transfer the chutney to a glass container and refrigerate for at least 1 day to allow the flavors to develop. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month. Serve at room temperature.
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