Two days after Thanksgiving, just a cup and a half left of my cranberry sauce. I started with three 12 oz bags of cranberries. That's a statement.
This cranberry sauce began years ago with some fairly common components: whole fresh cranberries, orange juice, sugar. This year I realized that the sauce is a good example of the evolution of traditions. Food, even traditional foods, evolve. Just as we do.
I used to have a friend that always called me last minute to fill in when he had an extra ticket to something. When I protested, he countered with the argument that he was the kind of friend I could call any time of day or night whatever the issue might be, he'd be there. The reality was that I had long since moved past needing that sort of rescue. What I wanted was the steady, reliable kind of friend. Not the swoop down in a crisis kind. My needs had changed (and really that was more his fantasy, not my my need anyway.) The point is that people change, lives change, and we evolve. Even when most of us stick to "traditions" at Thanksgiving; traditions themselves, evolve.
From 'Fugees Forward
For years I hosted the "Orphans, Refugees, and Procrastinators" Thanksgivings. For many of us in the post-college, pre-marriage years, we felt the need to develop our own Thanksgiving. Some wanted to avoid the family drama. Some were in relationships too new, or too rocky to build plans around. Some years it was me and a couple of single friends, others it was a raucus forty person we'll-clean-that-rug-tomorrow affair.
In recent years, I've cooked for 24, and I've cooked for 12. I think, like my cranberry sauce and that earlier friendship, my Thanksgiving has evolved. I'm feeling like my new tradition is going to be something like this: a few of us, and a few seats for new guests. We have some friends with little ones now, another with one on the way, and I've begun to think about a kiddie table, or at least, child-friendly games or traditions we can build.
We no longer feel like a rag-tag blend of orphans, but a chosen group of friends. People in this group relax and enjoy each other, they pitch in and wash dishes, we pass the babies around, we holler at the football games. I replay the stolen glimpses over in my mind. One of several people lying nearly prone, satisfied, rubbing bellies as I make coffee, slice pies. Another of two people who just met, sharing a conversation at one corner of the kitchen island. Another of the grandpa cutting food for the grandma, holding the little one on her lap.
I stopped putting out a can of jellied cranberry sauce years ago now. Many guests have declared this their favorite cranberry sauce. People asked to take some home. I do believe a new tradition has taken root.
New Traditional Cranberry Persimmon Sauce
Note: there are two types of persimmons most widely available in the US, usually appearing in early to mid- November. The Hachiya are elongated, sort of acorn-shaped. Deep orange, they are bitter and highly astringent when not perfectly ripe. They are delicious when ripe, and they freeze well.
This recipe calls for the Fuyu persimmon which is flattish and paler in color, usually. They resemble a sort of orange tomato. Fuyu persimmons are crunchy and not astringent. They are wonderful in salads, pairing especially well with dark greens like spinach or arugula. They cook well, retaining their shape where Hachiyas would melt into nothing.
Look for persimmons in Chinese groceries. Here in Boston, Sun-Sun is the only one that sells Fuyus by the piece. At C-Mart you must by the whole flat of them.
This is very good to add to the make-ahead list, for a holiday. Easy to use up after.
- 1/2 C chopped shallots
- 2 TBSP butter or soy butter substitute
- 3 bags of whole fresh cranberries (12 oz each) (rinse, stem, pick over for any badly bruised ones)
- Juice and zest of one or two organic oranges (only organic for zest)
- 4 Fuyu persimmons (peeled, chopped)
- 1 1/2 C sugar (I like raw for this)
- 1 1/2 - 2 TBSP Dijon mustard
- 1 C dry red wine
- 3 whole star anise
- 8 whole cloves
- ~ 2 TBSP Orange liqueur (I prefer Combier but it's hard to find, Cointreau is good. Can be omitted altogether to keep alcohol-free.)
- 2 TBSP pomegranate molasses (find in the International section of some large grocers or in Mediterranean or Halal markets)
- Sweat shallots in ~ 2 TBSP butter or soy butter. Don’t brown, just soften.
- Add rinsed and stemmed cranberries, persimmons, sugar, mustard, wine. Simmer over medium heat until cranberries begin popping and breaking down. Stir to ensure even cooking and no sticking.
- Add spices, molasses, orange zest, orange liqueur, orange juice. Simmer a few minutes more, stirring over low heat to meld flavors.
Can be made and chilled for up to a week before Thanksgiving. Sauce may appear loose at first. Cranberries are very high in pectin (the thing that binds jellies and pies) so it will firm up as it sets. Can be thinned as needed with orange juice.
This goes really well with turkey, as well as chicken and pork. Not bad stirred into plain yogurt, either.