Orange You Glad about All the Cranberries?!

I don’t know if it was the heavy-hearted start to the weekend, with the tragic events in Paris and around the world, or the continuing back troubles as a result of the dog’s extra-lengthy recovery from surgery, but this weekend, I needed a little more comforting than usual.

So I did a little more cooking than usual. We haven’t decided yet whether we’ll host a regular Thanksgiving meal, or head quite literally for the hills, but I’m hosting a gathering this weekend (I’m a Thanksgiving-week baby, which means picking a time sufficiently far from my actual birthday that a gathering of friends and loved ones is possible, but not so far that it interferes with December holiday madness.)

Yesterday, I tried my hand at candied orange peels, while I also made cranberry-orange pancakes with cranberry syrup, and cranberry sauce (even if I don’t roast a turkey for Thanksgiving, I’m reasonably likely to roast one at some point, and we love cranberry sauce even with chicken, so it’s a no-brainer to make a good-sized batch to freeze, either way.)

I’m only sorry I didn’t see a fellow-blogger’s suggestion of cranberry-gin in time to leverage it for my get-together! I might start a bottle of it tonight and just see how far I get. I could always supplement with frozen cranberries in cocktails…

I had intended to whip up some of Julia Child’s puff pastry too, because it’s great to whip it up, freeze it, and then have it to leverage, whether for this weekend or later, but I might do that tonight instead of an elaborate meal (we’re a little long on leftovers.)

Here’s what I did with the orange peels. I’d read through several suggested methods, and was chastened by this story, of a recipe that worked great, then suddenly didn’t.

I was careful to follow directions. I intend to dip at least some of these in chocolate, for snacking, so we made the peels a little longer (sliced lengthwise) than we might have if we intended to use them more as an ingredient in other things. I used navel oranges. In the end, I was very pleased with how they’ve turned out. Not hard, not crystal-filled, not bitter— just sweet and interesting and pleasant.

  
I dislike the waste of bringing a pot of cold water covering the peels to a boil, then discarding it three times, so I thought about how I could use that water— to water plants? We wondered about acidity. In the end, I saved it as orange-infused water, to add to ice water or iced tea (I drink my tea unsweetened, but the strong orange flavor is a nice, no-calorie complement to tea.) I ended up with at least a quart of that water, so if you’re like me in this way, you might want to think through a container for that and a plan.

At the end of the recipe, I ended up with some orange-flavored syrup, that I’ve reserved. It should go great over the leftover pancakes, or in a cocktail, or over pound cake or ice cream. No reason to throw it away, for sure!

I also worried that the peeled fruit would degrade quickly in quality, so I made cranberry-orange pancakes using this recipe. I tasted the batter and added a generous pinch of cardamom and a dash of vanilla, to round it out. I often find orange-cranberry stuff bright, but lacking depth. I felt like the spice and vanilla rounded out the recipe in ways that appealed to me. Mom called it “interesting and complex.” I pushed and we determined that it was interesting and complex in a good way.

The hand-juiced oranges from the candied orange peel recipe yielded just a little more juice than I needed for the pancakes, so I reserved the extra for cranberry sauce. Since I couldn’t zest the oranges, I zested a “Cutie” tangerine for the pancakes and added the juice from the cutie to my cranberry sauce.

I don’t like maple flavors, so I made a simple sugar syrup with cranberries to top the pancakes, and used this recipe as a jumping-off place. I used a half-cup of each water, cranberries, and sugar, and kept it warm on the stove until serving. It served the two of us generously, without leftovers (though we had leftover pancakes.) Plan accordingly if you want the recipes to come out even.

My cranberry sauce is a pound of cranberries, 1 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar, vigorously simmered until the cranberries pop. To that, I routinely add raisins, orange juice (if I’d been thinking, I’d have scaled back the sugar accordingly), a peeled, chopped apple, and then various spices. I’ve often grated fresh ginger in, to great effect. This year, I added salt, a generous grind or two of fresh black pepper, and cardamom. (My eldest niece once described cardamom to me as a combination of ginger and cloves, and this year, in both the pancakes and cranberry sauce, I had that very much in mind.)  It took the edge off the sweetness and gave a pop of spice that I think will go well with whatever we serve it with. If you haven’t made your own cranberry sauce before, it’s inexpensive, easy, and very worth it, in my opinion. I’m not a measurer, so I can’t tell you how many raisins (a generous handful), what size apple (I picked the wrinkliest one from my fruit bowl) or how many spices— just do it to taste. Also, know that this thickens as it cools, so don’t worry if it seems a little loose. If the cranberries have popped, you don’t have to cook it much past that point.

  
It was nice to do a cluster of related recipes, this way— by-products of one recipe used in another. It appeals to my waste-not mentality, and led me to pushing horizons in several areas. And now I have treats to try this weekend and the weekend after that, and so forth! Win-win!

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