As Thanksgiving approaches, my thoughts veer towards turkeys, pumpkins and of course, cranberries. Cranberries belong on the thanksgiving table. They are native to North America and were introduced to European settlers by the Indians. The Indians ate the "crane-berry", which supplied them with vitamin C and used the dark red berry for dye. They called them crane berries because the blossom and vine looks like the neck of a sand hill crane.
Unfortunately, cranberries often grace the thanksgiving table in the form of a tin can, ripples and all, plopped out onto a serving dish. I think this jellied sauce does an injustice to the pungent berry and is the cause of their under-appreciation. I have a favorite cranberry sauce that I make every year that is nothing like the canned jelly. The cranberries are cooked in ruby port, which produces a savory sauce, and uses dried figs for texture and sweetness. It goes wonderfully with turkey, stuffing, and even pork. Still, no one tries it without prompting, and when they do partake, it's a very small spoonful. Then the usual response is, this is cranberry sauce?
I completely understand the aversion to cranberries, although we never had canned cranberry sauce... Growing up in central Wisconsin, much of my extended family and neighbors were cranberry farmers. Since we usually received gifts of berries at harvest time, Cranberries were on our table year round, not just for the holidays. The jar of sauce would be poured into one of my mom's crystal serving dishes and most of it minus a couple of spoonfuls would return to the jar after each meal. When I went to a friend's house for dinner whose family lived on a cranberry marsh, my mom would tell me that I should be polite and eat the cranberries if they served them at the table. It was a lot to ask of a 7 year old. Strong, pungent, and sour, these sauces were straight cranberries with a little sugar. Then Ocean Spray started marketing Cranberry juice blends and the prices of cranberries went up and more and more cranberry bogs appeared around the neighborhood. Today, my parents' farm is an island in a sea of cranberry bogs. All because someone figured out that cranberries taste best when blended with other fruits.
My mom and dad still get crates of cranberries from relatives and neighbors, so when my sister came to visit a few weeks ago, my mom sent along a gallon size bag of cranberries, freshly picked from the neighbor's marsh! I plan on making the above mentioned sauce for Thanksgiving and possibly a very small batch of the more classic sauce for the purists. With the rest of the berries, I am taking free reign to mix them as I please with other fruits, blend them into breads, and make some sweets, like this cranberry apple pie...
This pie is sweet, yet tart and is the perfect companion to vanilla ice cream.
Cranberry Apple Pie
Double pie crust for a 9 inch pie (Click here for my butter crust recipe)
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 medium baking apples cored and sliced (about 3 cups)
2 cups whole fresh cranberries or frozen cranberries, thawed
2 Tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Mix togther the sugar, flour and cinnamon.
Into a 9 inch pie pan filled with the bottom half of a pie crust spread one cup of sliced apple, then cover with the sugar and flour mixture. Layer one cup of cranberries again covering with the sugar and floud mixture. Repeat layers ending with the apple slices. Dot the top of the filling with the butter then top with the pie crust. Seal the edges of the crust, flute and cut slits in the top to allow the steam to vent.
Place the pie on a cookie sheet so the filling doesn't spill onto your oven floor, then place in a 425 degree oven. After 15 minutes of baking, place a pie ring on the fluted edges or cover the edges with strips of aluminum foil to prevent from over browning. Set the timer for an additional 25 minutes. The pie is done when the top crust is lightly browned and the filling starts to bubble through the slits in the crust.