Holiday Food DIY: Homemade Cranberry Preserves

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For me, Thanksgiving is about really truly expressing my gratitude and love. I really honestly do not feel that I'm showing my true self, and all the love I have to share, if I'm popping a tin of biscuits or mixing up some stove top. It makes me feel lazy and honestly quite sad—there is no love in that box; there's a ridiculous amount of sodium and who knows what other additives you get as a bonus. I promise I don't say that as an insult by any means, however I feel that so many people nowadays really do tell you you're crazy for doing things homemade. Why is that, and where does it come from? I mean, this is cranberries people. You dump them in a pot with sugar and boil it.

Photo Of Cranberry Preserves on Homemade Honey Oat Bread, From NeoHomesteading.com

Less than a hundred years ago, people ate what they made and what they grew, and they drank what they brewed. A recent conversation with a fellow blogger really made me grateful that I'm not the only person out there that feels kind of shunned by those trying to convert you to the "other side," or the "easier" side of cooking. Why does "Auntie Jo" have to tell you you're crazy for not buying mix and dump ingredients? I mean in all honesty, I'm lucky. I've kind of warmed my family up to my "issues." They still prefer a lot of the store bought stuff, and I still make my own versions anyway, but I really am trying my best to make everything perfect and for me, perfect means it's homemade. I want them to be happy with me and my food, really I do! I'm like a puppy just writhing with anxiety hoping for approval. Try my food, and if you hate it then next year I'll make something else you'll love.... I hope?

There's no saying Thanksgiving has to be fancy, over-done or over-complicated, but as long as it's an expression of yourself and what your family loves. The pilgrims did not sit down to Stovetop and crescent rolls; they ate whatever they had and were thankful for being alive and quite grateful for having food to eat at all. Most of all they were glad to be able to be themselves, to be together and believe and worship however they wanted. These are all freedoms that many people in the world still don't have the luxury to appreciate.

I'm not without my mistakes, I've burned my stuffing, I've had experimental desserts, and of course I've forgotten things all together, but its a representation of me....not a corporation. This year, I'm really trying to focus on what my family likes and loves, and making it my way. I'm cutting out what they don't really want and I'm trying to really listen to what it is they do want and how they like it. Thanksgiving's always to some degree about excess, and for some I guess its fine but in my house its usually 4-6 people at the most and there's really no two dishes that are a "must have" for everyone. Stephen hates leftovers so he makes a goal to eat the entire plate of homemade green bean casserole in one sitting. The boys only need the mashed potatoes and corn and that stuffing...well, I might just end up eating the whole bowl of leftovers myself. For real, I love cold stuffing and cranberries. So instead of overdoing it and over-complicating things...I'm striving for modesty this year. Ahem—did I mention I ended up with a 20-pound bird? Seriously I'm praying to everything holy that it defrosts in time.

Everyone's pretty much agreed that you can not have a Thanksgiving supper without some sort of cranberry. Every year, I strive to make the perfect from-scratch holiday meal. Every year, I hope to find a perfect cranberry dish that might bring my family to the other side of cranberries... the other side meaning not from a can. I've made chutneys, blueberry & cranberry preserves, and this year I made this wonderful cranberry preserve. Its not overwhelmingly "cranberry," more sweet than my past variations. It's got a little bit of tangerine juice and zest to make it a little more vibrant, yet it's quite simply cranberries, sweet and delicious. Yes, we still have the weird tin-shaped stuff too, but this is my way to make the cranberry really shine. Take it or leave it, I at least don't feel bad that I also served something from a tin. (If I did not offer the stuff in a tin I would be booed out of the dining room, I can assure you.) It's very, very easy to make and it's a breeze to process into jars. You can give them away for Christmas, or hoard them for toast, turkey sandwiches or cranberry desserts.

 
Homemade Cranberry Preserves:
This is a basic cranberry preserve recipe. You can reduce the sugar slightly if you'd like yours a little more sour, however I find that my family finds cranberries more palatable when sweeter. Additionally I use cognac, I find that it makes the preserves a little bit richer. You could substitute brandy, rum, whiskey or really any other alcohol you prefer, and you can also leave it out. Great quality homemade chunky sauce is perfect with turkey and potatoes and amazing in desserts such as cranberry fool. (You can even try some mixed into a good cocktail!) Holiday meals don't have to be overly complicated, and holiday gifts do not have to be expensive to be great. This cranberry preserves recipe is perfect for setting your own table, or bringing your host or hostess as a thank you and an offering. It's a contribution to the meal in a very big and delicious way (with very little effort). Put away that wobbling tin, and try this recipe. Rich, tart, and perfectly sweet, this is an absolutely pheonominal homemade holiday treat.
 

 

Cranberry Preserves:
3 cups sugar
1 cup pomegranate juice, (you can use cranberry juice or blueberry juice)
1 package of dried cranberries (6-8 ounces or about 1 cup)
2 packages of cranberries frozen or thawed (12 ounces each about 6 heaping cups)
2 tangerines, zest and juice -or- 1 medium sized orange
3/4 teaspoon salt
*Optional- Cognac or other desired alcohol, 1/2-1 tablespoon per 8 ounce jar. (1 full tablespoon is a more intense slightly "boozie" richness)
 
In a medium to large-sized sauce pot, combine all ingredients except the alcohol and dried fruit.
 
Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce to a low boil, about medium or medium low heat. Simmer and stir occasionally for 30 minutes. Make sure the sugar does not burn to the bottom and the mixture does not stick. Once the cranberries have softened and popped and the texture is almost as thick as what you'd like, add the dried fruit. I did this after about 25 minutes and allowed the fruit to plump a bit. Total time being 30 minutes. 
 
This will keep in the fridge up to 30 days. If you are refrigerating it simply mix about 6 tablespoons of cognac into the container before refrigerating. 
 
To process and can: Place 1 tablespoon of cognac (or other alcohol) directly into your hot sterile jars, fill with preserves leaving about 1/4" head space. Wipe each jar rim to insure it's dry and clean, place on lid and ring.  Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. You will want to follow the directions according to your altitude and what jars you use. 
 
 
Great Variations:  
  • Cran-Blueberry Preserves: Use blueberry juice and instead of dried cranberries use dried blueberries. 
  • Spiced Cranberry Preserves: Add 2 cinnamon sticks, 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground clove and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Get the Homemade Cranberry Preserves Recipe From www.NeoHomesteading.com 

Catherine Morrow is the blogger behind www.NeoHomesteading.com, a new take on self-sufficiency and homemade recipes from scratch. From traditional foods such as sourdough, and homemade stocks to innovative gourmet treats like Peppery Fig and Balsamic Jam, NeoHomesteading is about making as much as possible at home without the use of processed items.    

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