Sugared cranberries: snappy, sparkle, and pop.

Oh! Yes. Hi. It’s been a while hasn’t it? So how have you been? … Mm hmm. … Mm hmm. … Oh really? And you had to have Him/Her/It removed from your home/office/kidney? Well I’m glad you’re coping. I feel a little bad for It/Him/Her, but whaddya gonna do. What about me, you ask? I’ve been fine. I’m still job-hunting and will move to Chicago this month and look for something there. Really looking forward to an exiting life of poverty. I know, join the club, right?

Sorry sorry, I’m still in polite-conversation-with-holiday-guests mode. Thanksgiving wore me out, what with cooking for twelve and preparing two pumpkin cheesecakes on top of worrying about my move. I hereby declare a moratorium on leaky wasteful fussy trauma-filled water baths for cheesecakes. No more water baths. I don’t care if it makes the cheesecake soft and creamy. You know what? I prefer my cheesecakes dense and velvety. NO MORE WATER BAAAAAATHS!

Sugared Cranberries

This post has nothing to do with cheesecake and water baths, but I’m sure that topic and all its associated pain will come up again in the future. Until that joyous occasion, here’s a beautiful snack and appetizer that always goes over well both at Thanksgiving and at Christmas time. Sparkling sugared cranberries make a sensationally pretty addition to your snack tray and is sensationally fun in the mouth. It pops in your mouth and releases an addictive tart sweetness that makes you grab another, and another, and another. Try it. You’ll be hooked. If not, at least you’ll fight urinary tract infections and load up on antioxidants.

SUGARED CRANBERRIES

Adapted from Cooking Light
Makes about three cups cranberries

Ingredients:
· 1 1/2 cups white sugar
· 1 1/2 cups water
· 1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
· 3/4 cup superfine sugar
     OR 3/4 cup regular sugar ground fine in food processor or blender

1) Rinse and drain cranberries. Pick out stems and any soft or mushy cranberries. Have a medium bowl ready nearby.

2) Cook sugar and water in medium pan over low heat. Stir well until sugar is dissolved. Bring liquid to a bare simmer so that bubbles lightly break the surface. DO NOT BOIL. Remove pan from heat. If you accidentally boiled the liquid, let it cool for a few minutes.

3) Add cranberries to pan and stir. If any cranberries split, don’t despair. Pour the cranberries and the liquid into a medium bowl. Place a saucer on top of the cranberries to help keep them submerged. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

4) Put half the superfine sugar on a rimmed tray or shallow pan and break up any lumps. Drain cranberries in a colander (over a bowl, if you’d like to save the liquid for cocktails or to reuse it for the same recipe) and shake them well to remove all the liquid. Dump the cranberries onto the sugar. Shake the tray or pan to coat the cranberries and sprinkle the remaining half of the reserved sugar onto damp berries that need more coverage. Use all the sugar. Carefully separate any cranberries that stick together and let dry for a few hours.

5) Serve immediately or within a few days. The sugar coating becomes more dry and fragile with time, so they’re best early on when they’re at their prettiest.

Let’s get ready to crumble.

As I see it, the problem with nature is that it’s natural. It’s hot, humid, and contains insects. For instance, there’s this shiny black bug that looks like a cross between a spider and a housefly. It twitches, skitters in circles, and jumps on you for fun, but only when you’re on a tall wobbly ladder picking cherries. While I haven’t verified this with scientists, I’m pretty sure that if this bug lands on you it will crawl up your nose and eat the top layer of your brain.

Sour cherriesAt least nature provides us with sour cherries—the perfect pie, tart, and crumble ingredient—colored a smashing shade of red. My neighbor invited me to pick sour cherries from her tree, and I would have done so right away if nature didn’t get in the way. When it wasn’t storming it was 90 degrees with 95% humidity, and when the cancer-causing sun finally set, the West Nile mosquitoes lined up on my porch ready to swarm me on sight. (I am the foie gras of the mosquito world. Chiggers love me too. Sand fleas have constructed temples in my honor.) As a result of nature’s cruelty, the cherries were almost gone when I went to pick them. That’s when I learned that if you leave them on the tree too long, cherries and white mold become totally BFF. Sigh.

“The early bird gets the worm,” is exactly the kind of thing nature would say. “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” is another thing nature would say. “You snooze, you lose.” Nature’s a bitch.

Sour cherry crumbleWhen I found enough perfect cherries for a crumble, I dumped them into an old grocery bag and pitted them with my pitter, the juices harmlessly squirting the inside of the bag instead of my eyes. Take that, nature’s pits! I was going to post a picture of the setup for educational purposes, but the red-stained plastic with piles of gutted cherries looked too much like a scene from the morgue.

Food blogging rule #1: Never post photos that look as if they could have been taken at the morgue.

Food blogging rule #2: Never use the word “morgue” on a food blog.

Sorry about that.

This crumble recipe is adapted from a cross between this cherry pie recipe and Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Nigella Lawson, who probably adapted it from nature. The idea of a crisp topping on steroids with no added butter really spoke to me. It works. Don’t be alarmed by all the sugar—unlike sweet cherries, sour cherries really need the help.

NATURE’S VERY OWN SOUR CHERRY CRUMBLE

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Not-The-One-But-Nice-For-Fling mulberry sorbet.

Mulberry SorbetMy very first post two years ago featured mulberries. I had hoped to make Jeffrey Steingarten’s mulberry granita recipe last year to celebrate my first blogiversary, but a freak late spring frost scared all the budding mulberries off. This year the berries were a good two weeks late for my second blogiversary. Not very reliable, these mulberries. They would make terrible boyfriends and are bland besides—I prefer a little tartness to my berries and men. The lemon juice in this sorbet adds that missing acidity and enlivens the wonderful subtle flavor. It’s like giving that bland boyfriend a motorcycle, although he’d promptly crash that motorcycle because he’s not reliable, not to mention highly perishable and always staining your shirts.

One advantage of mulberries (not a true berry) over other berries is the soft seeds. They’re barely noticeable, although you can strain them out if you’d like. Personally, I like the soft crunch and the attractive way they speckle the dark purple sorbet. Unfortunately, the mulberry season is very short, so this recipe may come too late for many of you. You’ll just have to try again next year. Or the year after that. Or you can start a relationship with the strawberry, who always wears a helmet and promptly returns phone calls.

Mulberry Sorbet

MULBERRY SORBET

Makes about 1 quart

Ingredients:
· 1 pound mulberries, about 4 cups
· 1/2 cup sugar
· 2/3 cup water
· 2 Tablespoons Chambord (optional)
· 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
· Pinch salt

1) Puree the cleaned mulberries in a blender until smooth (I leave the green stems on). Add the sugar, water, Chambord, and lemon juice and blend until the sugar dissolves. (Blending the berries by themselves ensures that the stems and pulp break down completely.)

2) Chill the mixture overnight or place in freezer and stir every 15 minutes until very cold.

3) Freeze in ice cream maker. Depending on the model, sorbet may ride up the sides of your ice cream maker more than ice cream, so keep an eye on it and push the mixture down with a spoon if it tries to crawl out.

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bullet More mulberry links
· More information on mulberries, from The Old Foodie.
· A honey-sweetened mulberry sorbet at Garlic Breath.
· Mulberry cobbler at Columbus Foodie.
· Mulberry & cinnamon cake at Morsels & Musings.