Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. No, not because of any hostile English takeover of an unsuspecting native population, not because of big-buckled pilgrim shoes or hand-print turkey paintings or the compulsive drive to bring decorative tree-droppings (read: leaves, branches, dried flowers) into the house and scatter them about in a playfully Martha-esque fall centerpiece…
No, I love Thanksgiving because it is the one holiday that is fully, unabashedly about FOOD. And not only food, but about the bounty of the fall harvest (how gloriously pagan, no?). It’s about celebrating plenty. It is about being grateful.
And that’s an idea I can get behind.
Another thing that I love about Thanksgiving is that it is the one meal many Americans eat that is mainly comprised of ingredients native to our continent. Turkeys are wild here, as are some species of duck, goose rabbit, and quail (though they are admittedly less common Thanksgiving-fare). Chestnuts and pecans grow here. Maple syrup and wild honey are bountiful. Sage, one of the most recognizable Thanksgiving flavorings, grows on the mountain right by my house. Pumpkins and winter squash are everywhere…though in our yard, that’s just the volunteers coming up (again) from the compost. Good thing we love squash!
This year, Rick and I have decided to create a Thanksgiving meal that is as close to local and native as we can get. This means acorn bread, wild turkey, home-made San Francisco sourdough stuffing with wild sage and nuts and apples, home-grown pumpkin pie, and of course, fresh cranberry sauce.
It’s gonna be epic. I can’t wait to start prepping.
In the meantime, though, I am busying myself with making OTHER people’s Thanksgiving a little more special: I’m making massive amounts of cranberry sauce and putting it up in jars to give as gifts.
The sauce is bright ruby red, packed with the glorious one-two punch of ginger and grapefruit (one of my favorite combinations), not too sweet, and still full of tart, whole cranberries. This is no slice-off-a-round jelly you can buy in a can. This cranberry sauce is so fabulous it will make even your Aunt Nettie’s hour-per-lb turkey preparation edible.
OK, I lied. There’s no cure for Aunt Nettie’s turkey. But just put the sauce on your own stuffing, casserole, or the little personal roast squab you brought in secretly (come on, this happened last year too. You had to be prepared, right?) and chow down.
Ginger-Grapefruit Cranberry Sauce
(I made a quadruple batch, but these measurements will get a single family through the holidays with a little bit to share with friends)
4 c whole fresh cranberries (organic is good, though the local-est I could get was Wisconsin-grown)
the grated zest and juice of 1/2 a large grapefruit
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger, more if you like it spicy
1/2 -1 c sugar (to taste – most folks will like it sweeter)
Wash the cranberries and pick out any that are slimy, squishy, or feel “puffy”/inflated. These ones taste funky. Put all the berries into a large, non-reactive pot over medium heat. Add the grapefruit juice and sugar and let it simmer down, stirring occasionally, until most of the berries have broken open and the mixture looks like a very thick sauce. Then stir in the ginger and grapefruit zest, take the pan off the heat, and put a lid on it. Let this mixture steep for at least a half an hour. It is better the longer it sits, but be sure it’s not over heat – it will burn.
This sauce will keep in the refrigerator for at least two weeks.
If you’re canning this cranberry sauce, spoon it into sterilized glass jars using a hot-pack method. Leave about 1/2 inch of headroom and water bath process them for 5 minutes (more if you are at high altitudes – check a canning safety table for processing times).
These processed jars will keep for up to a year.