Saturday, November 19, 2005

Thanksgiving Chutneys: What to Do if Your Supermarket Doesn't Carry Cranberries

O.K. The countdown to Thanksgiving is on! Here are three recipes you can make well before Thanksgiving day. Tomorrow, tune in for tips and comments on elegant Thanksgiving antipasti: Prosciutto and Persimmons; Endive with Gorgonzola and Walnuts.


If you live in the United States, Dried Cranberry Chutney on your Thanksgiving table seems unnecessary; you have fresh cranberries, canned cranberry sauce (ahhh, the memory of that schlopping sound as it came out of the can, really brings me back home!) and frozen cranberries along with thousands of recipes for homemade cranberry sauce. Here in Italy, all I have at the moment is a bag of “craisins” given to me by Suzanne Mallon, a fellow ex-pat American. So, my plan is to test out this recipe:

1 cup of dried cranberries (mine were pre-cut in half)
½ cup brown sugar, if you can find jaggery, it will give a more voluptuous flavor
1½ cups of water
1/4 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper
1-3in piece of orange zest
1 tsp whole cloves
4 whole cardamom pods, broken open
1 cinnamon stick
4 tbsp lime juice or bitter orange juice
julienned zest of lime or bitter orange

Place the cranberries, water, sugar or jaggery and salt in a saucepan. Tie the cayenne, orange zest, cloves cardamom, and cinnamon in a piece of cheese cloth. Add sachet to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Then lower the heat to slowly simmer the mixture for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat. Take out the spice sachet and press it to release as much flavor as possible. Mix in the citrus juice. Serve at room temperature sprinkled with citrus zest julienne. This can stay covered in the refrigerator for up to a week. Ladled into a sterile jar and sealed tightly, it can last for months.

This chutney is a standard of mine. It is delicious! Its sweet, tangy spicy flavor goes well with any roast chicken dish as well as (I hope) with Thanksgiving turkey. I adapted it from a recipe in The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Yamuna Devi.

¼ cup of tamarind pulp (available in “bricks” at Asian markets)
1 and ¼ cups of hot, almost boiling water
¼ cup of pitted dates
1 tsp whole cumin seed
½ tbsp minced fresh ginger root
¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper
3 tbsp dried grated or flaked unsweetened coconut
½ tsp salt

Place the tamarind pulp in the hot water and let it steep and soften for about 20 minutes. Place the mixture in a food processor and pulse until you have a thick, pulpy consistency. The hard seeds in the tamarind pulp could damage a processor if you work it too long or too constantly. Scrape all of the pulp from the processor into a sieve set over a bowl and press it through with a rubber spatula. Scrape the underside of the sieve to get all of the tamarind puree into your bowl. Toss the dry residue into your compost bin (compost bin instructions coming soon).

Place the dates in the food processor. There is no need to wash the processor after mixing the tamarind. Add back as much tamarind puree as you need to get the processor going. Keep the processor on for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until you reach a uniform consistency. Add all the other ingredients and pulse to combine. This keeps in the refrigerator for 4 days or in the freezer for months.

I made this chutney this summer at my in-laws’ house in the Pelion peninsula of Greece. A local pear orchard had suffered a thunderstorm and the fallen pears were distributed to us and others in town. We had to do something quick with these pears, many of which were bruised. I whipped up a batch of this chutney with my father-in law’s homemade red wine vinegar, and all the sweet spices we had on hand. It turned out beautifully! I think the best part is the coriander seed.

4 cups of peeled, chopped pears
enough red wine vinegar to barely cover the other ingredients
2 cups of sugar
minced peel from ½ lemon
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp mixed “tea spices” (a combination of ground cinnamon, clove, ginger, cardamom and black pepper)
1 tsp of whole cloves
1tsp of whole coriander seed

Place all the ingredients in a large, deep saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that forms at the surface (usually during the first 5 minutes of cooking). Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking for 40 minutes or until the chutney reaches a thick consistency. You may test if the sauce has set by letting a couple drops of liquid fall on a saucer. Wait a second and run your finger across the small pool of sauce. If the sauce holds rather firm and does not run together again after your finger has run through it, it is set, if not, continue cooking 5 more minutes and try again. This chutney can be poured while still very hot in sterile containers, sealed and stored for several months. Follow standard jarring procedures.
*When you eat this chutney, of course be careful to remove the whole cloves but enjoy the succulent flavor of the whole coriander seed. When combined with the pear, sugar and vinegar, there’s nothing like it!


Anonymous Joey Lesh said...

Lovely pear chutney. I made it with red pears and raisins for Thanksgiving this year. My only change was to do 1/2 and 1/2 red wine and apple cider vinegar.

4:54 AM  

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