Tradition...and Evolution

At this holiday time, I like to prepare the traditional dishes that remind me of long friendships, family gatherings, and shared experiences. Most families do the same. It just isn’t Thanksgiving without Aunt Susie’s Pumpkin Pie or Mom’s Chestnut Stuffing. So I don’t trifle with our special dishes too much and always make sure they remain rooted in the original.

But as I pulled out my recipe for Cranberry Conserve again this year, the one I published in my book,  A Book of Feasts, Recipes and Stories of American Celebrations  in 1993, I was struck by two realizations. One, I had made this dish for probably all but one or two years since that publishing date. Secondly, I noted how it had in fact changed and evolved over the years. So I thought I should just write the latest recipe down and share it. 

Why did I change it? I seem almost constitutionally incapable of making the exact same dish over and over. I am easily influenced by new dishes and flavors and like to tweak my creations to incorporate those inspirations. I also think that my own and others’s tastes just change. Food has it own fashion rhythms. And so do the ingredients. Do I simply prefer less sugar now, or are the organic cranberries available in 2015 just sweeter? 

Below are the original and current versions of Cranberry Conserve. Whichever one you choose to make, you’ll find the preparation quick and easy. You’ll note in the latest version I have radically decreased the sugar content, experimented with some other types of sweetener, added dried cranberries for texture and increased the cinnamon.  Back in the day, we sometimes used frozen Ocean Spray cranberries-- often they were the only ones available. This year I also got the idea of adding a dash of salt.  I could envision adding a little hot pepper someday too- but not this year. I don’t want to shake things up too much.  

Wishing you all a sweet and Happy Thanksgiving!

 Cranberry Conserve

Cranberry Conserve 2015

2 bags fresh cranberries (24 ounces total) (I used organic)

3/4 cup granulated sugar  (resist the temptation to make it too sweet)

3-4 packets of stevia or monkfruit sweetener or to taste

1 cup dried unsweetened cranberries

Juice and grated zest of one large orange, or two small ones

1 cup chopped toasted pecans

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

dash of salt

Rinse cranberries in a strainer and pick out any stems. Place the cranberries, sugar, orange juice and rind in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer 5-8 minutes until cranberry skins have begun to burst.  The longer you cook the mixture, the smoother the conserve will be. Stir in dried cranberries, cinnamon and toasted pecans. Chill until ready to serve. This keeps forever and is a great topping for leftover turkey sandwiches or to accompany roast pork.  Obviously it can be made well in advance and kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Makes 10-12 large servings

 

Cranberry Conserve 1993

1 bag (14 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries ( thawed) 

juice and grated rind of 1 orange 

2/3-1 cup granulated sugar 

1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans 

1/4 teaspoon allspice or 

cinnamon ( optional) 

 Rinse cranberries in a strainer and pick out any stems. Place the cranberries, sugar, orange juice and rind in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer 5-8 minutes until cranberry skins have begun to burst.  The longer you cook the mixture, the smoother the conserve will be. Stir in the cinnamon and toasted pecans. Chill until ready to serve. This keeps forever and is a great topping for leftover turkey sandwiches or to accompany roast pork.  Obviously it can be made well in advance and kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

 Makes 8-10 servings

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