23 November 2008

A sense of community with a side of cranberry sauce

Our neighborhood is filled with overwhelmingly kind people. We couldn't be more thrilled to have neighbors with such a strong sense of community. From my perspective, community, a place of belonging and sharing one's self, is so important and lost to more and more of us as fewer Americans share a common culture (or language) with their neighbors.

Last night we had the second neighborhood party since we've moved in - a traveling Thanksgiving feast. There's at least one neighborhood party here every month. People love to get together and open their homes and they couldn't be nicer or more interesting - each having real "character." Among our neighbors, there are retired folks who teach martial arts and dance classes, lawyers who maintain the communal cross-country and snowshoeing trails, gardeners, cowboys, television producers, engineers, nurses who travel to third world countries, contractors, hematologists, and who knows what else we are to discover. Savannah is excited to have two Thanksgivings this year and so are we since chances are good we won't be hosting one at our work-in-progress house. Our neighbors who have apple trees brought apple cake and our neighbors who have an abundance of squash brought, you guessed it, squash. I brought three kinds of cranberry sauces, traditional, sweet, and raw as well as Martinelli's sparkling apple cider. It's our favorite special meal drink for the three of us and makes me miss having a glass of wine less.

My Three Favorite Cranberry Sauce Recipes

Note: All of these recipes begin with washing the cranberries and picking over them to sort.

Traditional Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 package of fresh cranberries
  • 1 c sugar
  • peel and juice from 1 orange
  • 1/2 c water (more if needed)
In a medium sauce pan add all the ingredients and stir over medium heat. When the cranberries begin to burst open, lower the heat to a simmer for about 20 minutes, uncovered. This recipe should be somewhat sweet and somewhat tart but you can adjust the sugar to your tastes. You can also add more water if you need to.

Notes: I call this traditional cranberry sauce because it has the tangy tart flavor that cranberry lovers appreciate. For those who aren't the biggest fans or who prefer the glop from a can, try the next recipe.

Sweet Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 package of fresh cranberries
  • 1 c sugar
  • 3 c of red seedless grapes
  • 1/2 c of water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
In a medium sauce pan add the first four ingredients. Stir over medium heat until the cranberries begin to burst and the grapes start to soften. Then turn heat to low to simmer for about 20 minutes, longer if the grapes are still whole. Remove from heat and stir in salt.

Notes: Sometimes I use my immersion blender for a few pulses to make this smoother if the grapes don't fall apart. People who aren't big fans of homemade cranberry sauce often love this recipe, especially if you use the immersion blender to pulse it a few times for a smoother consistency.

Raw Cranberry Relish

  • 1 package of fresh cranberries
  • 2 apples peeled and sliced
  • 1 whole washed, seedless orange
  • 1-2 c sugar

Put the first three ingredients through a grinder, peels and all. Add 1-2 c sugar (I prefer on the lighter side but to your taste) and stir it in for a few minutes so that the sugar dissolves. This can also sit out for 30 minutes while the rest of the sugar dissolves.

Notes: This is one of my favorite cranberry recipes because of the ease of making it and the full fresh flavors. By not cooking the cranberries (or any of the other ingredients) you get the maximum benefit from the antioxidants that are packed in the berries.

I wish I'd brought my camera. Savannah had a blast even though she stayed up way past her bedtime. She explored the house with Fred (one of our hosts), even though she doesn't usually take to most men. She had Fred giving her the grand tour and holding her hand up and down the spiral staircases (they always make her nervous). She pampered their dog Brandy with her gentle attention and then she fell in love with our cowboy neighbor, Andy, whose lap she sat in for much of the night (when she wasn't hiding underneath the dessert table tablecloth eating sugar cookies, that is). The two of them were like two peas in a pod, especially since Andy's girls looked much like Savannah when they were younger. Andy didn't mind her chatterbox commentary on everything and he taught Savannah a little about playing pool. The next sunny weekend Savannah is hoping to get a horse ride.

On the needles
Savannah has become a slaver-driver about having me finish her new blanket. I sat next to her in the car the other day so I could knit. I waited for the car and my hands to warm up before beginning while Savannah kept saying, "Mom, you should be knitting!" She thinks that she needs to hide from ghosts under it. Unfortunately, I bought all the yarn that was left in FJORD's "Rosewood" at our quaint yarn shop downtown and will be needing more by the end of the week. I'm barely a quarter of the way through her new throw.

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