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Getting Saucy with Cranberries

Irish or not, if you’re anywhere in the U.S. next Thursday, you will, I assume, run into a cranberry or two as we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Widely associated with that holiday, many think cranberries arrived with the pilgrims on the Mayflower. Not true! The tart little berry was a staple of Native Americans long before the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 and dishes made with cranberries were already autumn favorites. Tart dishes like cranberry sauce or cranberry relish were a nice accompaniment to freshly killed fowl or game, and today they’re a “must” with Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey. They’re popular too: 10.8 billion cranberries are consumed through the holiday season (that’s nearly two berries for each person on the planet) transcending pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, even Thanksgiving itself!  As an essential part of an Irish Christmas, too, you’ll find these cranberry recipes in my soon-to-be-released cookbook, Festive Flavors of Ireland, along with 70 more delicious ideas to celebrate the festive season. To order a signed copy, visit irishcook.com

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Chicken liver pate.

CRANBERRY-ORANGE RELISH

MAKES 2 CUPS

            Simple sauce (cranberries, sugar and water) is delicious enough, but substituting orange juice for the water and adding cinnamon sticks give the sauce a distinctive flavor. 

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1/2 cup water

1/2 cup orange juice

1 cup sugar 

12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries

2 cinnamon sticks

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons grated orange zest

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring water, orange juice and sugar to a boil. Add cranberries; return to boiling. Reduce heat; add cinnamon sticks, salt and orange zest. 

2. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cranberries burst. 

3. Remove from heat; let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Serve at room temperature.

CRANBERRY-WALNUT CHUTNEY

MAKES 2 CUPS

            For a cranberry dish with more complex flavors, this chutney is sure to please.

12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries

2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/3 cup chopped dates

1/3 cup chopped celery

1/2 small tart apple, cored and diced 

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon crystalized ginger

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 chopped walnuts

1. In a large saucepan, bring cranberries, sugar, dates, celery, apple, onion, ginger, water and lemon juice to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until mixture thickens.

2. Remove from heat; let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Just before serving add walnuts. Serve at room temperature.

CRANBERRY-GINGER CHUTNEY

MAKES 3 CUPS

12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 large tart apple, cored and chopped

1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 cup apple juice

1 cup sugar

4 whole cloves

1. In a large saucepan, bring fresh or frozen cranberries, dried cranberries, apple, ginger, apple juice, sugar and cloves to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until mixture thickens.

2. Remove from heat; let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Serve at room temperature.

CRANBERRY-CUMBERLAND SAUCE

MAKES 1 ½ CUPS

Chicken, duck or game livers pâté is a popular starter, especially during the festive season. The usual accompaniment is warm buttered toast and a piquant relish like this sauce, which is also delicious with ham and cold meats.

2 oranges

1 lemon

1/4 cup port

1 (10-ounce) jar redcurrant jelly

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1.With a vegetable peeler, peel strips of zest from orange and lemon. With a sharp knife, shred zest as thinly as possible. Put zest into a small saucepan; cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer; cook for 5 minutes, or until zest starts to soften. Drain; reserve zest.

2. Squeeze juice from oranges and lemon into a small saucepan. Add jelly, ginger, and mustard; bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes; reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10 minutes, or until mixture is reduced by half. Stir in reserved zest.

3. Spoon into clean jars, cover, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 2 weeks.

CRANBERRY MUSTARD

MAKES 1 ½ CUPS

            You’ll love this sweet-tart-tangy mustard spread on ham or turkey sandwiches!

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

¼ cup water

¼ cup honey

2 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1. In a large saucepan, bring fresh or frozen cranberries, water and honey to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until mixture thickens.

2. Transfer mixture to a food processor or blender; purée until smooth. Let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Serve at room temperature.

    Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page expands this year to “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, or to order a signed cookbook, visit irishcook.com