I was looking for something new this Thanksgiving to add to the several condiments on the table. Typically, we have the ‘standard’ homemade cranberry sauce. Some years it does more toward chutney with the addition of mild peppers, some years straight up Midwestern with just some orange slices and zest for kick. This year though, after spending some serious time (and spending some serious money) learning about wines, particularly those of the Pacific Northwest, I wanted something to showcase the region and the kinds of herbs we have here year round. So when I came across this recipe from NYT Cooking iPad application I was thrilled. It had all the basic elements I was looking for. Of course I would tweak it, I can’t resist.
Here’s the basic recipe from the New York Times:
Cranberry Sauce With Pinot Noir
by Jeff Gordinier
Time: 20 minutes, plus cooling
Yield: 2 1/2 cups
- 10 whole allspice berries
- 10 whole cloves
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- 4 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
- 1 ½ cups Oregon pinot noir
- 1 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
- 1 cup clover or wildflower honey
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- 6 strips orange zest, about 1 inch by 3 inches, removed with a vegetable peeler
- 2 (4-inch) sprigs rosemary
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 1 vanilla pod
Here’s how I altered it.
I halved the amount of all the ‘seeds’ (5 whole allspice berries, 5 whole cloves, 5 whole black peppercorns). Instead of grinding them as the recipe says, I knew I wouldn’t like the gritty mouthfeel that might result if I followed the original recipe. I’ve had the experience in other recipes when grinding up berries and seeds gives that rough feel to the final product.
I also decided that the berries, and cinnamon stick, could use some flavor enhancement. Why not dry pan toast them? You have to be very careful when doing this, and don’t get distracted in the process of toasting dry berries, they burn VERY quickly. Into a seasoned iron skillet the allspice, clove, peppercorn, and cinnamon stick goes, medium heat….and watch, watch, watch until you begin to smell those aromas drifting up to your nose. Then take it off heat and let the residual heat of the pan continue to toast them for a bit, moving them around the pan frequently. Take them out of the pan into a small dish or ramekin to cool. I place them in a store bought spice bag made of cheesecloth. I can’t tie a secure knot to save my life, so I buy them already made, but if you’re knot-capable, go for it make your own out of cheesecloth.
I made the remainder of the base recipe pretty much the same, using fresh cranberries, and excepting I didn’t have vanilla bean available so I used pure vanilla extra we make ourselves from Hawaiian Vanilla Beans (http://www.hawaiianvanilla.com) and vodka. We always have a gallon brewing in the lower level of the house. We just happen to have neighbors who, among other things, have bees. We used their own honey here too. I nice personal touch. If you have local beekeepers, try theirs. It’s quite a clean tasting product, very different from store bought.
An important part of the recipe is to use a good Pinot Noir. We have come to love the Pinot’s from Oregon, in particular those from Stoller Family Estates (http://stollerfamilyestate.com). We used a 2012 Pinot Noir and it turned out amazing. Our guests literally exclaimed at how good it was. As a home cook, you pay attention when more than one guest says something like, “This is really amazing, the very best cranberry sauce I’ve EVER had.”
I almost never reproduce a recipe as written by someone else, I always tinker. Go ahead make this cranberry sauce your own. The wonderful notes from a good Pinot, the rosemary, and the honey come together very well. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.