One of the many things I love about Thanksgiving is the continuity of the menu across generations and regions.
Sure, every family and region has its own interpretation of the staples. But it is simply amazing to me that on one day so many Americans regardless of background sit down to roughly the same meal — turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, dressing (if you're in the South, stuffing if you're in the North), some sort of potato and a healthy dose of pie.
One of the best parts of Thanksgiving is cranberry sauce. It is one of the very first recipes I developed many years ago when I was supervising the public-relations side of the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line. I called it a cranberry chutney instead of a sauce because it is so thick with fruit, spices and a touch of vinegar.
Though most Americans serve cranberry sauce from a can, I urge you to make this the year you try your own. It's so easy and so delicious, there's no reason not to.
And here's one tip regardless of which recipe you use. Getting the sauce to thicken and take on the right consistency requires that the cranberries simmer for at least 10 minutes. That is how long it takes to release the pectin — the natural jelling ingredient — from the fruit.
This fruit-filled cranberry chutney is good hot, room temperature or cold, and you can make it up to a week ahead.
CRANBERRY CHUTNEY WITH PORT
Start to finish: 15 minutes
Two 12-ounce bags fresh cranberries, washed and picked through
Zest and Juice of 1 large orange (about 1/2 cup of juice)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup port wine
1 cup sugar
1 cup dried Turkish apricots, cut into strips
1 cup dried cherries
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
In a large, heavy pot, combine the cranberries, orange zest and juice, balsamic vinegar, port and sugar. Bring to low boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Add the apricots, cherries and salt.
Making sure the cranberries don't burn, continue cooking over a low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the cranberries start to pop. Add the nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon, then stir well to combine. Continue cooking on low until thick, about another 5 to 7 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.
Nutrition information per serving: 130 calories; 0 calories from fat (0 percent of total calories); 0 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 29 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 23 g sugar; 1 g protein; 20 mg sodium.