It seems that no holiday meal is complete without cranberries. This festive dish has somehow secured a position on almost everyone’s Thanksgiving table. People are also very passionate about the manner in which the precious red jewels are prepared. There are those who believe that only a can of jellied cranberries will do, while others strictly adhere to Grandmothers version of the dish, and discount the notion of anything different.
I enjoy mixing it up a bit, and I also believe that cranberries are a wonderful side dish year round. I like to combine the berries with other fruits to create a compote. The concept of cooking a mixture of fruits in a sugar syrup has been around since the 17th century, and was first conceived as a method of preserving fruit for storage. It is most likely that a compote would have been served by the early settlers at the first harvest celebration. I personally enjoy the way the different fruits interact and mingle to create a balanced flavor of tart and sweet. So if you have not tried a compote, I urge you to give it go, you can always still slice a can of the gelatinous mass for the non believers.
To prepare a Cranberry Compote:
Cooks note: This is an outline of how I prepare a compote. The beauty of this dish is that you can customize it to your own liking, by adding or omitting any fruit. You can add less sugar if you like, however that tends to lead to a watery dish. I try to keep a balance of color and texture when choosing ingredients, but otherwise I enjoy mixing it up depending on what is available.
- 1 bag fresh cranberries
- 1 pear, peeled, cored, and diced
- 1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
- ¼ cup raisins
- ¼ cup dried apricots, diced
- ¼ cup dried figs, diced
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 ounce Grand Marnier or brandy (optional)
Place all ingredients except Grand Marnier in a heavy sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.
Cover and reduce heat to medium low and continue to cook for 10 minutes (cranberries pop as they cook, so it is best to keep the lid on to avoid a mess). Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
Allow to cool to room temperature before adding the liquor (optional). Transferring into a mold or dish, and refrigerate covered. Compotes also freeze quite will.
To Mold a Compote:
Cooks note: If you are intending to form your compote, do not decrease the amount of sugar in the recipe, and add about five minutes to the overall cooking time. This will ensure enough jelly to hold the shape.
Line a small container with plastic wrap, and lightly coat with non-stick cooking spray. Transfer the room temperature fruit mixture into the mold completely filling it, and press the fruit down into the liquid with the back of a spoon or spatula. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at lease 8 hours or overnight.
Leave the compote in the mold until serving. Place a serving plate on top of the mold and invert. Slowly peel the plastic wrap from the compote to avoid dislodging pieces of the fruit.