Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Thanksgiving Food: Cranberry Sauce

The idea of a sharp fruity sauce served with rich meat is an old one which we explored very recently. Today, of course, we have to consider cranberry sauce,

The following article found in the Southport Telegraph of Wisconsin, in 1846, might explain (at least in part) why and where the tradition of cranberry sauce with turkey really became established.

Economy In Cooking Cranberries.
Owing to the scarcity of apples, pears, peaches, &c., prevailing throughout the states, as well as to the great abundance and excellent properties of cranberries, the latter are much used for sauce. In preparing them for the table, hundreds of dollars may, no doubt, be saved by the people of Michigan, by observing the following directions, and that, too, without causing the sauce to be made any less palpable.
To each quart of berries, very shortly after the cooking of them commenced, add a tea-spoonful of pulverized saleratus. This will so much neutralize the acidiferous juice, which they contain, as to make it necessary to use only about one fourth part as much sugar would have been requisite had they been cooked without using saleratus.

Indeed, the simplest recipe for cranberry sauce is “take cranberries and stew with sugar.” There are of course variations on even this most simple of themes. Here are my selections for your enjoyment.

Cranberry Sauce [Moulded]
Wash, and pick over one quart of cranberries, put them to stew with a little water, and a pound of sugar, in a porcelain-lined sauce-pan. Let them stew slowly, and closely covered for an hour, or more. They can then be set away ready for use, or they can be put into a mould and turned out in form the next day.
Another, and nicer way is to stew them soft, then strain off the skins, add pound of sugar to quart of fruit, and boil all up together again for fifteen minutes. This will make a fine jelly for game, if put into a mould.
Jennie June's American Cookery Book, 1870.

Cranberry Sauce
Wash and pick a quart of cranberries; put them into a stew-pan, with a teacupful of water, and the same of brown sugar; cover the pan and let them stew gently for one hour; then mash them smooth with a silver spoon; dip a quart bowl in cold water, pour in the stewed cranberries, and leave till cold. Serve with roast pork, ham, turkey or goose.
La Cuisine Creole, by Lafcadio Hearn, 1885

Frozen Cranberry Sauce:
Gives a new tang to game, roast turkey, capon or duck. Cook a quart of cranberries until very soft in one pint water, strain through coarse seive, getting all the pulp, add to it one and a half pints sugar, the juice – strained - of four lemons, one quart boiling water, bring to a boil, skim clean, let cool, and freeze rather soft.
Dishes & Beverages Of The Old South, by Martha McCulloch-Williams, 1913

Cranberry Jelly.
Cook until soft the desired quantity of cranberries with 1 ½ pints of water for each 2 quarts of berries. Strain the juice through a jelly bag.
Measure the juice and heat it up to boiling point. Add one cup of sugar for every two cups of juice; stir until the sugar is dissolved; boil briskly for five minutes; skim and pour into glass tumblers or porcelain or crockery moulds.
8 lbs, of Cranberries and 2 ½ lbs. of sugar makes 10 tumblers of delicious jelly.
Winnipeg Free Press, October 3, 1919.

Quotation for the Day.
It has been an unchallengeable American doctrine that cranberry sauce, a pink goo with overtones of sugared tomatoes, is a delectable necessity of the Thanksgiving board and that turkey is uneatable without it.
Alistair Cooke


Anonymous said...

Nice post for thanksgiving fruit and food

Laurie said...

I'm intrigued by the frozen cranberry sauce. Serving your Thanksgiving cranberry sauce in the form of a sorbet would be a very trendy thing to do these days, and yet the recipe is almost 100 years old!

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Laurie - I love that sort of find: I love being reminded regularly that there is nothing new under the sun, and certainly no such thing as a "brand new" recipe!

Twistie said...

You know, my mother used to go cranberry crazy for Thanksgiving. She made cranberry sauce, cranberry jelly, and cranberry sorbet, all from scratch. We all knew to stay well out of her way when the jelly was underway, because jellies were among her least reliable dishes and she hated things to go wrong with food. When it worked, it was amazing, but when it didn't...not only was it not worth eating, one didn't dare say a word.

Her sorbet, however, was uniformly sublime. I waited all year to eat it.

Reading that quote, I find myself wondering if Mr. Cooke ever had a truly good cranberry sauce.

The Old Foodie said...

Twistie - I dont suppose you have your mother's recipe for the cranberry sorbet? Do you make it yourself?

Amanda said...

A friend gave me this recipe for cranberry-apple-orange relish made by the Sinsinawa nuns in Wisconsin. It's a very old recipe that my friend still makes in a hand-turned grinder. The relish just bursts with freshness and will keep in the fridge for several weeks. Your post reminds me that it's time to make this relish again. Thanks.

The Old Foodie said...

Cristie - orange with cranberry sounds fantastic - a bit like the idea of Cumberland sauce. I think I might like to try this.