Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We are the cranberries!

How homey and refreshing would it be to serve up fresh, preservative free cranberry sauce that you made yourself for your holiday meal?  Guess what?  It’s is SO darn easy to make, you might be surprised.   How does 15 minutes from berry to sauce sound?

Cranberries are chocked full of Vitamin C & Fiber.  You can use any type of sugar  from refined to natural to artificial.  Or if you’re serving someone who is diabetic or if you like your cranberry sauce tart, you don’t have to use any sugar at all.

Fortunately, since cranberries store and travel well the bagged berries you get from the grocery store are nearly as good as fresh picked.  Look for firm berries with a dark color.

If you are canning, this is a good time to get the jars ready, so you won't be rushed later. The dishwasher is fine for the jars; or you can wash the containers in hot, soapy water and rinse, then sanitize the jars by boiling them 10 minutes, and keep the jars in hot water until they are used. Keep the jars hot to prevent them from breaking when you fill them with the hot cranberry sauce.

Put the lids into a pan of hot, but not quite boiling water (that's what the manufacturer's recommend) for 5 minutes, and use the magnetic "lid lifter wand" to pull them out.

You need two 12-ounce packages of cranberries.  Wash them by swirling them around in a large bowl of cold water. 

Lift them out with your hands and feel for any smooshy berries.  Discard the soft ones. 

In a large pot, bring 2 inches of water (or cranberry or apple juice) to the boiling point and pour the cranberries in.  
Cook them for about 10 minutes; stirring once or twice (the berries will pop as they cook).  

Once half the berries are popped and the sauce feels mushy, it's done!  It should take 10 to 15 minutes of cooking over medium-high heat.

Turn off the heat. Add sugar to taste.  Start out with 1 cup of sugar or honey or Splenda, as you prefer. Taste and add more if it is still too tart.  If you don't plan to can sweetener then you're done!  Just serve your fresh cranberry sauce warm or cold!
Cranberries are naturally high in pectin, which aids in thickening.  To boost the thickening power, bloom some unflavored gelatin and combine with the sauce. 

If you’re canning the sauce, it hot until you’re ready to fill the jars you will put into the canner

Fill the jars to within a 1/2 inch of the top, wipe any spilled cranberry sauce of the top, seat the lid and tighten the ring around them.  Put them in the canner and keep them cover with at least 1 inch of water and boiling.  If you are at sea level (up to 1,000 ft) boil pint jars for 15 minutes and quart jars for 20 min. If you are at an altitude of 1,000 feet or more, increase the cooking time by two minutes per 1,000 feet.
Remove and cool the jars - Done

Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place overnight.  Check that the jars are sealed by pressing in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it.

If you find that the end product is not as gelled or as thick as you'd like it to be, simply bring it to a boil in a saucepan, turn down the heat, and stir occasionally until it gets to a consistency you like.   Let it set up in the refrigerator before serving.

If you are canning,  this recipe has a shelf life of 12 months to 18 months, and requires no special attention.  Which means you can make enough sauce to get you through this and next year’s holidays!


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