Flash in the Pan: Cranberry Preserves
May 5, 2008
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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]
Sometimes, you just want to eat something now. I’ve decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly, or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required. Here’s today’s “Flash in the Pan.”
One of the advantages of having a little baking business as a sideline is that you can buy some ingredients in bulk, and save a little on the price of more expensive items (such as nuts or dried fruits) by purchasing them in 2-kilo or 5-kilo bags.
At the same time, one of the disadvantages of having a little baking business is that you end up with 1.8 kilos or 4.9 kilos of leftover bulk items, such as nuts or dried fruits, when no one happens to order baked goods that contain those ingredients, and they’re left languishing in huge plastic bins in your basement, and you sometimes have to throw them away, and they end up costing you more than if you’d just bought the regular size at the retail store (and your distress over that fact causes you to write really long sentences).
A few weeks ago, I noticed some dried cranberries that, clearly, had had better days. They were perfectly servicable if scattered in muffins or cookies (they are, after all, already preserved by dehyrdation); but they were just a little too crisp on the edges for my taste, sporting that whitish, frosty patina that figs, dates, or other highly sweetened dried fruits seem to acquire when they’ve been sitting too long. Worse, their rimed exterior reminded me too much of winter (the agony is still too close), so I knew I’d have to find another use for them–STAT.
“Hey!” I remarked to the HH, “I could make cranberry jam out of these!”
He stood and stared at me for a second, clearly flummoxed. “Um, wouldn’t that be just the same as cranberry sauce?” he asked. Hmm. The guy had a point. And while I do enjoy an occasional daub of cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, I don’t really care for it very much any other time of year.
But the idea of cranberry jam did appeal to me. With sweet-tart berries and the right cooking method, I knew I could end up with something akin to raspberry or blueberry preserves, perfect for spreading, baking, or little gift jars.
Since the cranberries were already sweetened (pretty much all dried cranberries are), I didn’t need to add anything more. I simply popped the contents of my bin (about 2 cups) into a pot, covered with fresh orange juice, and brought to a simmer. Then I let the mixture bubble, stirring every so often, until the cranberries had broken down and almost dissolved into a soft, gleaming crimson, spreadable preserve.
One that bears absolutely no similarity to cranberry sauce, I might add.
The spread is perfect on muffins, scones, or even Quinoa-Oatmeal Croquettes for breakfast. You could also mix this with a little spicy chili sauce for a great dipping sauce (try it with squares of Nut Roast–fantastic!).
Quick. Easy. Two Ingredients. Need I say more?
dried cranberries, at least one cup (but more if you like)
orange juice, enough to cover the cranberries in a pot
Place cranberries in a pot and cover with the juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat; lower heat to simmer, cover, and allow the mixture to cook softly, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and the cranberries soften and begin to fall apart. Stir to create a smooth mixture with a few chunky bits. Transfer to a jar or other container to cool. Will keep about a week in the fridge; or freeze for later use.