Every year at this time, I do the same thing:
I go to the store and buy a box of sugar, three bags of cranberries, a bottle of Dijon mustard, and a few oranges so that I can make this dressing (which is the only way that I’ll eat cranberries–well, aside from craisins).
I went to make it this evening, and decided that some extra prep-work had to be done when I saw this:
The cooktop just needed a touchup, but the rest? Oh HELL NO. I’m tired of looking at that mess. My husband’s out on the West Coast for the next three days, so I decided to take advantage of the situation and clean up.
After cleaning up, throwing stuff out, putting stuff up and so forth, I got ready to cook.
The ingredients are:
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
3 12-ounce packages of cranberries (you can use fresh or frozen–I much prefer fresh. I also prefer the Ocean Spray brand, because they’re larger and easier to work with. But when you’re broke like I am, you kinda have to take what you can afford and make the best of it.)
salt and pepper to taste
The recipe I use originally called for two split vanilla beans, but I don’t have easy access to (or the money for) those, so I use 1/8 tsp vanilla extract instead.
The juice and zest of 1 orange (the oranges I have are rather small and have thick rinds–so I had to use two).
3 tbsp Dijon mustard–the brand I usually use was a bit out of the budget this year, so I went with a less-expensive brand whose name starts with E and ends with l’s and has “meri” in the middle.
I had a load of dishes running (which included my cooking implements), so I had a small snack and watched Top Gear (one of my favorite shows) while waiting:
Mmmm….cheese. I had three small slices off that little block.
When the dishes were done, I threw a saucepan on the stove, fired up the burner, and put the water, vanilla extract, and sugar in the pan to simmer:
While the simple syrup was coming up to the simmer, I got ready to juice those oranges:
I love that little strainer. Top Gear Top Tip: A small balloon whisk makes a great citrus reamer.
When the simple syrup had a nice rolling simmer going, I added the berries (which I picked over to get rid of leaves, stray stems, and other debris:
Yes, that’s a lot of berries.
I switched to a tablespoon at this point, so I could stir the berries in the syrup without worrying about spilling half of them over the side and making a huge mess. After a couple minutes, I heard the berries starting to pop and release their juice, which started to turn the syrup a nice rosy shade:
I kept gently stirring and watching the heat for another fiveish minutes or so, serenaded all the while by the pop-pop-pop of the cranberries. When the syrup-and-berry mixture started to bubble up, I immediately took the pan off the heat and stirred in the mustard.
I was a little worried about this mustard, because it didn’t taste as pungent as the stuff I normally use. I then stirred in some zest that I pared off the oranges (You see the grater up there? I tried to use that to zest, and failed miserably–all it did was make a huge mess. You see the orangish stain on my left index finger? That’s from my attempt to use a cheese grater to zest an orange).
There’s the zest–I added the salt and pepper right after, and gave it a taste. Usually I taste a strong hint of the Dijon, but this time it was very understated; a most pleasant surprise that allowed the cranberries to take center stage with a nice citrus accent. I let the dressing cool, and then poured it into the bowl that I’ll be using for service:
Covered the bowl with some foil, and put it in the fridge to set up. The berries have their own natural pectin, so the dressing will gel slightly and gain a really nice viscosity. And it is absolutely yummy on its own, if you’re into that sort of thing. A small bit of whipped cream, and you are good to go.