We’re in the long slog part of winter. The holiday season is far behind us, and spring in Chicago is still months away. This is, for me, the toughest time of year. I get stir crazy. I long for sunlight that stays past five o’clock and for sidewalks that don’t end in ankle-deep gray slush puddles. I long for bright colors and bright flavors. But there isn’t much in the way of fresh fruit to be found beyond your average grocery store apples and pears and bananas.
I lean heavily on citrus this time of year. I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten my weight in clementines by now. But when I want something more than that, something deeper and more complex, but still wintery, I turn to cranberries.
My friend Traci turned me onto to these spiced cranberries. They come from Liana Krissoff’s excellent Canning for a New Generation a book that I turn to frequently in the summer when I come home from the farmers’ market laden with fruit that I want to preserve (the plum cardamom jam is a favorite of mine), but I had completely overlooked this recipe, perhaps because I don’t spend much time with canning on my mind in late fall and winter when cranberries are abundant or perhaps it looked too basic, like it wouldn’t turn out to be anything special. I had no idea it would turn out to be something I’d crave. It’s simple really, just cranberries simmered in sugar and orange juice with a few dashes of warm baking spices, but the result is lovely and comforting and so worth the effort. The cranberries relax in a deep garnet jammy heap with just the right balance of acid and sweetness and spice. They’re just the thing to brighten up a bowl of steel cut oats, to stir into plain yogurt, to top pancakes or waffles, and they’re also right at home as an accompaniment on a cheese plate.
Just make them already.
- 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries one 12 oz. bag
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar raw or white
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice from 2-3 oranges
- 1/4 cup orange liqueur such as Cointreau, Curacao, or Grand Marnier (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg preferably freshly grated
- Have 3 half-pint jars (or containers of equivalent volume) and a ladle clean and ready to go. If you are canning these, prepare your water bath.
- In a heavy saucepan, combine all of the ingredients. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about fifteen minutes. Some of the cranberries will likely sputter and pop open, that’s fine. The mixture will be slightly thickened. Ladle into jars. Wipe the rims and screw on the lids.
- Process in a water bath for five minutes or refrigerate right away.
(Originally published February 4, 2014.)