Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Preparing for the Inevitable (Spiced Cranberry Apple Chutney with Pomegranate)

In my opinion, Thanksgiving is clearly the Superbowl of cooking. I can't help but get excited at the prospect. I'm especially excited because, this Thanksgiving, we get to host our friends Geoff and Laura. Their kitchen is currently undergoing some remodeling, so they headed South to visit. So far, Geoff has fixed my food processor and introduced us to a great new red. Laura has helped me pick the flowers, redo November's header for the blog, and cooked, shot and post-produced our cranberry chutney for tomorrow.

It's the chutneyest!
A and I completed most of the shopping over the weekend, in preparation for the rush. Still, I had expected Laura and I would need to make a supplementary visit today: to replenish any items that didn't keep, retrieve those that were forgotten, and, of course, to select some nice flowers while we there.

Cranberries: one of my first loves
To me, the cranberry is a deeply important part of Thanksgiving. The earliest encounter I can recall involves the ridged, gelid log of canned condiment everyone recognizes but few will admit to eating. I was hooked. I think Thanksgiving should always include cranberries and I like my turkey better with cranberry sauce (or compote, relish, or chutney) than gravy. My tastes have matured somewhat, and I refuse to allow processed cranberry product on my table.

Oh, the humanity
Cranberry sauce is so easy to make that I've never really bothered with a recipe before. It was a bit of a treat to pay extra attention today and codify onto paper. This variation forgoes refined sugars, borrows extra pectin from tart green apples, infuses it with spices and adds ripe, garnet-like pomegranate arils for a little crunch.

Cranberry & friends
 Spiced cranberry apple chutney with pomegranate

Pomegranates. I just can't get enough. Here, they're stirred in after the chutney has cooled to preserve their texture.

3 tart green apples
2 oranges, juiced
1 lb. cranberries
3 cinnamon sticks
3 cardamom pods (Laura detests cardamom, at least when it takes her unawares. I forewarned her.)
3 1-inch strips of orange zest
3 star anise
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
2 tbs. Grand Marnier
1 pomegranate, quartered and arils removed

Begin by quartering and coring the apples, then chopping them to 1-inch dice, roughly equivalent to the size of the cranberries. Place the chopped apples into a medium saucepan and douse with the orange juice to prevent them from browning.

In the back you can just spot the foot of Mt. Thanksgiving
 Mix in the cranberries, cinnamon sticks, cardamom, star anise, maple syrup and Grand Marnier and set the pan over medium heat. Leaving the spices whole yields subtler flavor and a "cleaner" finished dish. To make removing them easier afterward, tie them into a pouch of cheesecloth with some twine.

Cover and bring to boil, reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The cranberries will pop, staining the mixture ruby red, the apples will slump and yield their shapes, and the combined aromas will scent your kitchen with holiday spirit.

About halfway there
After 30 minutes, remove from the heat and uncover. Stir well and allow to cool to room temperature. Retrieve the spices from the finished chutney. Add the pomegranate arils and stir well to mix.

Spoon into a serving dish and chill at least three hours for flavors to meld, or make up to a week in advance and cover closely with plastic wrap in the refrigerator. I like to set the chutney out while the turkey is roasting, to remove some of the chill, but you may prefer it ice-cold against the hot turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


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J said...

Sure. Why not? :)