Crazy for Cranberries

I'm crazy for cranberries as I'm sure many of you are. The following recipes, chosen from a repertoire of dozens, are interesting variations on a standard theme but have more verve and vibrancy. One such newfangled version always appears on my Thanksgiving table and I often make enough to give away as gifts in pretty glass jars. But you may be interested to know that a wobbly block of cranberry sauce, straight from the can, takes center stage. I just love the stuff:  I love it's garnet color, its opaque yet translucent sheen, its tart-sweet syzygy, the way it waxes and wanes, and the way it is generally left untouched, slowly becoming unglued as the temperature rises around the table. Poor jellied cranberry sauce. What to do? I turn it into a delicious cranberry granita (!) -- a recipe I'll share with you on "Thanksgiving Leftovers Day" -- a new culinary holiday that takes place on the fourth Saturday of every November. Never heard of it? I just made it up! Anyway, the jellied cylinder, complete with the slightly indented striations from the can itself, is something I look forward to year after year. It's a tradition I would never change.

The first offering below is this year's favorite spin. It is a fresh, sprightly relish that cleanses your palate and adds electricity and color to each of the meal's components. And you can make it today, for it improves with each day that passes -- up to five days in advance -- and it takes only two minutes to prepare. Can you find the time? The second recipe is dark and jammy and reminiscent of a conserve (a thick jam made from two or more fruits.) Its deep color comes from dark-brown sugar and ruby-hued dried cherries which plump right up and add unexpected bursts of sweetness. Candied ginger and fresh lime zest tell the rest of the story.

For more saucy cranberry ideas, you may refer to my posts of 2010 (November 20 and December 1) which features a dynamic chutney and dulcet cranberry-maple syrup, and a simple and sophisticated apple-cranberry sauce. Not bad at all with a holiday bird (or with potato pancakes!)

Today the cranberries, tomorrow the...

Cranberry-Lemon-Apple Relish

12 ounces fresh cranberries 2/3 cup turbinado sugar 2 lemon wedges (skin and all, no pits) ½ large Gala apple, in large chunks 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice Large pinch salt

Pulse in food processor until finely ground. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Makes 2-1/3 cups

Cranberry, Dried Cherry and Ginger Conserve

1-2/3 cups dark brown sugar 24 ounces fresh cranberries ¾ cup dried cherries, about 3 ounces, coarsely chopped 3 tablespoons finely minced candied ginger 1 large lime

In a large saucepan, bring 2-1/2 cups water and sugar to a boil. Add cranberries, dried cherries, 3 tablespoons minced ginger and a pinch of salt. Bring mixture to a rapid boil. Reduce heat to medium-high. Grate zest of lime and add to pot. Cook for 15 minutes,  stirring frequently, until cranberries pop and mixture is thick. Let cool with cover askew.  Transfer to a bowl or jar; cover and refrigerate until cold. If desired, garnish with additional candied ginger or grated lime zest. Serves 8  (makes 5 cups)