An updated classic, Spiced Pear Cranberry Sauce is simmered in red wine and sweetened with honey to add a special zip to your holiday feast. (Skip to recipe.)
I've been struck with the Christmas spirit.
Some years it hits earlier than others, and this year is one of those. It must be all the snow that's giving me the ho-ho-ho-and-let's-be-jolly kind of feeling. Or maybe it's the fact that I finally baked my Christmas gumdrop fruitcakes this week. Or the fact that Raymond took advantage of the sunshine and a +2°C day to put up the Christmas lights. Or that I hung our wreath on the front door.
There were Christmas carols on the radio today. They give me that joyful feeling inside. This month leading up to Christmas is all about the anticipation and the preparation.
It's about finding joy.
It's so easy to be stressed by all the details, but so much more wonderful when I stop and find the joy. . . the joy in the picture-postcard snow hanging icing-like and heavy on the spruce branches, the thrill of unpacking treasured Christmas decorations and the collection of nutcrackers, putting up the wooden nativity scene that brings memories of chubby little preschooler hands arranging and rearranging the figures daily. I find joy in the comforting smell of cookies baking and spices simmering. And there's even joy in jostling with other shoppers in Christmas bedecked malls in search of the perfect gift to bring a smile to a loved one's face.
To start off the holiday season of preparations and anticipation, here's my recipe for a cranberry sauce with a special touch. Mellow pear and full-bodied red wine add a richness to the tart and zingy cranberries, while a hit of cloves adds a mysterious hint of spice that makes this cranberry sauce holiday-ready.
Yes, it's easy to open a can of the sweet gloppy jellied stuff, but once you taste the brightness and tart intensity of homemade fresh cranberry sauce, you'll never go back to the canned version. Plus it's so quick and easy to make. And FUN. The berries make the most satisfying popping sounds as they cook. That alone brings a smile to my face (see - another moment of joy).
The beauty of homemade cranberry sauce is that it can be made several days ahead (in fact, it's better to have at least a few hours or a day for the flavours to blend and the sauce to fully thicken up). Plus, then you get to keep it in the fridge for leftover turkey sandwiches - one of the best things about the holidays!
I usually make a double batch and freeze containers of it to bring out during the year to have with roast chicken, or any kind of poultry. Try it with turkey meatballs. Mmmm.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: Around Thanksgiving and Christmas the grocery stores carry fresh cranberries, usually in 12 oz/340 gm bags. These freeze very well, so I like to stock up and pop a few bags in the freezer, just as they are. Then all they need is a quick rinse when I want to use them. They can be chopped or used whole while still partially frozen. Their tart tangy flavour is wonderful chopped and stirred into muffins, quick breads or cakes.
The alcohol boils away as you cook the sauce and just leaves behind the complex flavour of the grapes, making this sauce fine to feed to children.
Cranberries contain a lot of natural pectin, so even though the sauce may look quite thin when it is cooking, it thickens up considerably as it cools.
Kitchen Frau Tip: To measure the honey, first lightly coat the measuring cup with cooking oil spray, or wipe with a small bit of oil. The honey will slide out easily.
Spiced Pear Cranberry Sauce with Red Wine and Honey
- one 12 oz/340 gm bag fresh or frozen cranberries (about 3½ cups)
- 1 large ripe pear
- ½ cup (120ml) honey (or more, to taste, if you like it sweeter)
- ½ cup (120ml) full-bodied red wine (I like shiraz or merlot)
- ¼ cup (60ml) water
- grated zest of ½ a lemon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Rinse the cranberries in a strainer and shake excess water off. Pick them over to remove any shriveled ones.
Peel and dice the pear into cranberry-sized cubes, about ½ inch (1cm).
Combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. The sauce may look too thin, but it thickens as it cools.
Enjoy the holiday sound of the cranberries gently pop-pop-popping as they burst. Some will stay whole, and that's okay. They add a lovely look and texture to the sauce. Taste the sauce, and if you like it sweeter, stir in a bit more honey.
Let cool, then store in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze in freezer-safe containers.
Makes about 2½ cups (600ml).
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