Lynda Balslev: Cranberries aren’t just for sauce
Thanksgiving has passed, but that’s no reason to stop eating cranberries. These pert and tart berries are a welcome addition and decorative garnish throughout the year, and especially brighten up a winter table during the frosty holiday season. Their bright ruby color practically screams celebration, livening up salads and sauces, desserts and cocktails, and their pucker-y tartness easily complements sweet and savory dishes.
While a good ol’ cranberry sauce is the go-to accompaniment to turkey, you can also add cranberries to chutneys, salsas and relishes. Blitz or cook them down with savory ingredients, such as peppers, onions, ginger and dried fruit to accompany red meat, game and pork.
Blitz cranberries into marinades. Their astringent tartness will work wonders as a flavorful meat tenderizer.
Add tart cranberries to fruity desserts, such as pies, crisps and cobblers. They pair well with apples, pears, quince and dried fruit. Their tartness will make the dessert pop, and nicely balance the sugar and sweetness of the fruit.
Did anyone say chocolate? Cranberries love chocolate (who or what doesn’t?). Fold them into dark chocolate cakes, bark and bars, or simply dip and coat them in chocolate for a dangerously easy nibble to eat.
Add them to cocktails and mock-tails. Use them to flavor simple syrup, infuse vodka, muddle into mixed drinks, or simply float a few berries as a colorful garnish.
Cranberry-Bourbon Citrus Smash
Makes one cocktail
Cranberry-Orange Simple Syrup:
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
2 strips orange peel
3 to 4 fresh or frozen cranberries
3 to 4 mint leaves
1 lime quarter
1 orange slice
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce Cranberry-Orange Simple Syrup
1 ounce fresh lime juice
Make the simple syrup:
Combine the syrup ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the cranberries break down, about 15 minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve, pushing down on the cranberry pulp. Discard the solids. Cool the syrup to room temperature. (The simple syrup may be stored in a glass container in the refrigerator for up to one month.)
Make the cocktail:
Combine the cranberries, mint, lime and orange slice in a cocktail shaker and muddle. Add the bourbon and Cointreau, and then add the remaining ingredients. Shake vigorously and pour into a tall glass or strain into a rocks glass. Serve with whole fresh or frozen cranberries, lime wedges and mint sprigs.
Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area.
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