It’s a little ironic, given how much I love to cook, but when it comes to preparing the Thanksgiving meal, all the jobs are taken. My nephew Eric has taken over roasting the turkey. My sister-in-law Teresa makes stuffing and dessert and gravy. My mother-in-law makes the potatoes and yams. My sister-in-law Leah brings corn pudding, roasted carrots and green bean casserole.
I’m responsible for making the cranberry sauce, which takes all of 20 minutes. So every year I’m left wondering how I can contribute more than a condiment. Usually, this means I bring some redundant dish that errs on the healthy, green side, but manages to just be in the way. Then, when we come home, I stare at this healthy thing I made and wonder what the hell I was thinking.
So this year, I’m just going to stick with the cranberries. But not just any cranberries, oh no. This year, I’m bringing a tasting. A flight, if you will. One chutney, one jelly and one sauce and I’m going to line them up beside the turkey in little crystal dishes. I’m calling it Tour de Canneberges, because French is fancy.
(By the way, if you went to the grocery and they were low on cranberries, sorry about that. They said they were getting more in. Insert uncomfortable emoji face here.)
Anyway, first stop: zesty cranberry sauce. I make this every year and it’s so fresh and tangy I can’t imagine not having it. It’s from an old Canadian Living recipe that my best friend Kristin’s mom gave me years ago and features a whole lot of lemon and orange zests, along with their fresh juice. The key is to keep simmering everything long after the cranberries burst (I love that sound) until everything gets thick and luscious. So that’s going to be entry No. 1.
Second stop: cranberry grappa jelly. I’d always found working with gelatin a little nerve-wracking because, can we agree?, gelatin is weird. Also, because my only previous experience with it involved the red Jell-O layer sliding off the green Jell-O layer in a “salad” I made for a Mad Men party a few years ago. I tried to rescue the mess by poking in toothpicks to keep things in place, but the toothpicks gave way like a New Orleans levee and, anyway, it was funny after we’d had enough punch.
But I made this grappa recipe for Canadian Thanksgiving this year and everything gelled beautifully. The grappa gave it a nice bite and jelly has such a nice mouth feel with the turkey. Gabrielle loved it and she mostly hates the traditional Thanksgiving meal, so that made me happy. Anyway, I’m going to cut this into succulent blocks and see how it goes over.
Third stop: chutney. This is the wild card of the flight since this will be a new recipe. A good amount of research on Epicurious has shown me though that cranberry and ginger play very nicely together. I’ve chosen a 1992 recipe from Bon Appétit that will feature fresh grated ginger, apricots and currants. I’m not sure how it will work on the kids, but I am looking forward to giving it a go. Maybe I’ll toss in a little swig of Pinot Noir to sex things up a little.
Just so you know, I’m quite aware the nerd factor in this experiment is pretty high up there. I mean, if the Thanksgiving meal were a band, the cranberry sauce would probably be the oboe or maybe the flugelhorn. If it were an outfit, it would be the socks. Basically, in a pinch, you could do without it, and I’m aware that taking this so seriously is a little silly. But the need to cook on Thanksgiving is fierce so I’ll work with what I’ve got. And hope my flight takes off.