Cranberry: Two Thanksgiving Favorites

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and with its impending arrival come thoughts of family as many of us prepare to travel to or host our loved ones for the traditional holiday meal.

Fresh cranberries have appeared in the grocery stores, tart and plump and ready to burst open with the judicious application of some water, heat and sugar. But homemade cranberry sauce, the chunky kind most of us have experienced at family Thanksgiving dinners at least once or twice, is not for everyone. Many of us prefer the jellied kind, smooth and firm, with just a little give and a tangy, sweet flavor. However, preferring jellied cranberry sauce over whole berry doesn't mean you have to sacrifice yourself to the can—if you purchase unflavored gelatin, you can harness the intense flavor of fresh berries and the texture of the canned stuff at the same time.

Dried cranberries have their place at the Thanksgiving table, as well. They can provide a much-needed hint of sweetness in a savory dish, like stuffing. This recipe is a hybrid of two of my most successful stuffing recipes, combining the best elements from each. I also incorporated a product from a Maine company, Fiore Artisan Olive Oils & Vinegars. I first encountered their product at Bangor Wine & Cheese when I lived in Bangor, and was delighted to find their Freeport store when we moved to southern Maine. If you can't find wild mushroom and sage olive oil, you can easily substitute your favorite cooking oil, and add sage as desired.


Food for ThoughtCranberry Sausage Sourdough Stuffing

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf of sourdough bread, cubed
  • 4 tablespoons Fiore Wild Mushroom & Sage olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 pound chopped crimini mushrooms
  • 1 pound spicy Italian sausage, removed from casings
  • salt and pepper as needed
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

  1. Spread cubed sourdough into a single layer on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of flavored olive oil, and place in oven for five to ten minutes while you preheat the oven to 350°F. This is just to dry it out a bit, so it will absorb the liquid without becoming soggy. Remove bread to a large bowl and set aside.
  2. In a cast iron skillet, melt butter with remaining mushroom & sage olive oil. Add onions, garlic and celery, and cook until translucent.
  3. Add mushrooms, sprinkle with a bit of salt, and cook until soft.
  4. Push vegetables to one side of the skillet, and add sausage, breaking it up as it cooks. Mix together with vegetables and season with additional salt and pepper as desired.
  5. Pour vegetable and sausage mixture over bread pieces, add cranberries, and mix well to distribute.
  6. Pour the chicken stock over the mixture, and stir to combine until the bread has absorbed all the liquid. (You can add more if necessary.)
  7. Return mixture to skillet (or baking dish) and place in oven. Bake 45 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy on top.

Homemade Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Food for ThoughtCranberry Sausage Sourdough Stuffing

Ingredients:

  • 2 12-ounce bags fresh cranberries
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 2 packets Knox unflavored gelatin
  • ¼ cup water (to soften gelatin)

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan, place cranberries, sugar and water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until all the berries have burst.
  2. In a mixing bowl with a pour spout, whisk together gelatin and 1/4 c. water until gelatin is dissolved.
  3. Pour cranberry mixture through a strainer, pressing to make sure you remove as much liquid from the pulp and skin as possible, and mix cranberry liquid well to disperse gelatin.
  4. Pour into a greased ring mold or cookie sheet (you can use a cookie cutter to make fun holiday shapes once it has set up) or — if you’re a traditionalist who likes those unmistakable lines — save and rinse two standard-sized cans ahead of time and grease them to mold your homemade jellied cranberry sauce in.