Holiday Food DIY: Homemade Cranberry Preserves
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 sadthere 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.
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. Ahemdid 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.
- 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
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By Rita Arens