Spiced orange cranberry sauce

According to my mother-in-law, a good cranberry sauce should have whole cranberries and a nice sauce, so as to not be mushy or dry. I created this cranberry sauce keeping this in mind. It is gently infused with oranges and pungent spices and is slowly baked in the oven. In addition, the alcohol will elevate it to another level that gives an unexpected kick to the sauce. It will go nicely with any savory fall or winter dishes. You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving, go ahead and you can try it now!

I really like how this cranberry sauce turned out. Here is my little story… As a foreigner I did not grow up eating cranberries so I have been relying on the Joy of Cooking cookbook for the recipe. I was contemplating whether to make some changes to the basic recipe or just let the cranberries be what they are and enjoy their true taste.

I started experiementing. First, I put the oranges to the test. Why add oranges, another bitter fruit?!? Ok orange peels are bitter but are also sweet. I found that the sweet oranges paired nicely with the sour cranberries. Perhaps because their common denominator is the bitterness ?!?

In the culinary world, it is well known that pungent spices offset the sour flavors so I also added cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice. They bring a little warmth to the sauce, too. In addition, the allspice gave a nice citrusy flavor. They balanced out the sauce nicely and resulted in a pleasant sweet and sour dish. Again, I can’t imagine the sauce without them.

Oh and the sugar! Most recipes use sugar for cranberry sauce; after all it is a sour dish and sweet can offset sourness. I have nothing against sugar if used well in a dish, meaning it does not overpower the foods that it is added to. I am excited to say that I was able to reduce the sugar a bit in this recipe just by adding the seasonings. Not bad ehhh …

There is more! I used to cook the sauce in a pot that yielded a rather mushy appearance. It did not bother me, I did not even realize I did not cook the cranberries properly. To make sure the cranberries stayed whole, my mother-in-law used to prick each berry one by one with a needle so they didn’t burst open in the pot. I have recently learnt from a chef that slowly cooking them in the oven would give very nice results and the berries stay whole. I would like to mention that of course cranberries carefully made in a pot can stay whole as well.

I think my recipe made the cranberries more suitable to eat with savory foods, it has a pleasant flavor without overpowering the cranberries. You can keep it in the refrigerator for at least 3 days. The flavors come together while the sauce sits in the fridge. Hope you will enjoy it! Of course, there are many other techniques to cook cranberries that yield beautiful results too.

Cranberry sauce recipe

Serves 2-3 people.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of fresh cranberries (frozen is fine just make sure they are fully defrosted)
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp dried ginger (cut and sifted) or 2 tsp fresh ginger
  • 1 orange (chopped up peel and the juice) Chop up the orange peel into very small pieces it tastes great in the sauce or 2 Tbsp dried orange peel and 1/3 cup of orange juice
  • If you don’t have orange juice you can use 1/3 cup of other juices or even water and maybe even a little orange essence
  • 1/3 cinnamon stick
  • 3 pieces of all spice berries
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp of spirit of your choice: whisky, fruit brandy (optional)
  • touch of freshly ground black pepper and salt, to be added at the end

Directions

  • Wash cranberries, discard any with blemishes. Combine all ingredient in a baking/glass dish and wait until cranberries start releasing their liquid for about a half an hour. Set oven to 250F and slowly bake for about two hours. Cranberries are ready when nicely cooked but not raw or mushy.
  • When done take the dish out of the oven and remove the larger spice pieces (cinnamon, allspice).
  • Add the salt and the pepper.
  • Serve at room temperature.
  • You can triple this recipe for Thanksgiving for 9-10 people.

enjoy!

Text, photo and recipe by twincitiesherbs.com

Poached pears and pear autumn drink

You get two for one with this recipe! There are the fabulous poached pears and also you get to enjoy its delicious liquid as a tea. They can be served for the holidays to delight your guests or any time when you need a little boost in the fall. As a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, I like creating individualized teas for people but it is also gratifying to come up with fun seasonal teas as well. This fall drink is no exception.

The sugar is caramelized, the warming spices are gently infused and the sweet pears are added at the end for poaching. The end products are the firm poached pears that can accompany any fall dish and this wonderful light drink that warms your body and soul. You can surprise your guests for Thanksgiving dinner with these delicious treats!

The sweet and juicy pears are also valuable for health. They are cooling and slightly acidic. They help the lungs by moving stagnation and keeping them moist during the dry season. They are high in fiber that is very much needed in the fall. Pears are also good source of antioxidants, minerals like copper, iron, potassium, manganese, magnesium and vitamins A, B, and C.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 Qt of water
  • 4 larger firm but ripe pears (Bosc, Bartlett). You can poach more pears in this liquid. Leave the stems on if they have stems.
  • 1/8 -1/4 cup of sugar
  • Mulling spice (please see below)
  • zest of lemon peel
  • 3 orange rings if you have it
  • pinch of salt
  • maple syrup or caramel sauce

Preparation

  • Place 2 Qt water along with the sugar in a medium size pot. Bring to a boil, this will caramelize the sugar.
  • Turn the heat down and simmer the spices for 10 minutes. I chose cinnamon, all spice, orange peel, ginger, cloves, cardamom. It is a good idea to set a timer, time is important here. Please see the recipe below.
  • Meanwhile wash the pears. You can peel them and cut the bottoms of the pears off or just leave them as they are.
  • Turn off heat completly and add the pears into the pot. Keep them in the steam for about 5-10 minutes. The pears will poach in the steam. You want your pears to be soft but not mushy.
  • Serve the poached pears with dinner or own its own as a dessert with maple syrup or caramel sauce. Keep the liquid for a delicious warming drink.

Mulling spice

  • 1 tsp cinnamon chips
  • 1 tsp allspice berries
  • 3 pieces of cloves
  • 1 Tbsp dried orange peel
  • 7  cardamom seeds
  • 1/2 tsp of dried ginger root (cut and sifted) or 1 tsp fresh ginger root

enjoy!

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Traditional Hungarian stuffed cabbage (töltött káposzta)

I don’t think it is an accident that stuffed cabbage is a Christmas dish.  You can surely serve it any time but it is the perfect dish for the holidays.

I smile every time I remember how my three year old daughter reacted when she saw stuffed cabbage on the Christmas table and screamed ‘YUCKY’.  However, after she tried it she realized how delicious it was. Ever since then she makes sure that it is on the Christmas menu every year.

Stuffed cabbage is a popular winter dish in Hungary even though our ancestors didn’t make it. It is a dish that was inspired by the Turks and we started making it only after the Turkish invasion, in the 1600’s. They called it szárma from the Turkish word sarmak.  However, many of us today can’t imagine Christmas without it. My mom made it every year. 

I don’t think it is an accident that stuffed cabbage is a Christmas dish.  You can surely serve it any time of the year but it is the perfect dish for the holidays.  In the old days, families butchered their pigs and the meat was ready to be used by around this time.  Also, there weren’t too many vegetables available except for a few like cabbage and onions. Not to mention that the dish can be kept in the cold for a couple of days. In fact, it tastes the best after a few days. This was an important consideration because Christmas went on for days back in the old times and according to traditional customs, women were not allowed to work during the celebrations.

The recipe is not too difficult, though it is a bit time-consuming. Just remember you won’t have to cook for 3 days afterwards! There are many variations of this recipe but this is how I make it. Please feel free to experiment with it.

What you need

Meat stock:
  • 1 -2 lb of beef bones (ox tail and beef bone)
  • 2-3 Tbsp of black pepper corn. I like to add a lot of peppercorns because they give a really nice flavor to the dish. I used to add them to the pot with the stuffed cabbage.  This is a minor correction to the original recipe because people were complaining that they were biting on the peppercorns regularly when they were eating the cabbages. This way, people can enjoy the the nice flavor but they don’t have to bite on the pepper corns. Of course, you can grind fresh peppercorn on the dish when serving too.   
  • 4 bay leaves
  • carrots
  • turnips, rutabaga (optional)
  • garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • few cloves of garlic
  • 1 celery stalk or the root
For the cabbage rolls:
  • high quality oil (lard, sunflower seed oil)
  • 1 1/2 lbs of ground pork (can be half beef)
  • 1 larger onion
  • 1 heaping tsp Hungarian powdered paprika
  • 2 slices of bacon (optional)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 lb of saurkraut, drained
  • 1 tsp of salt or more
  • 1/2 cup of canned tomatoes
  • 4 slices thin cut Pork chops (you can prepare separate or in the soup) (optional)
  • smoked meat like kielbasa, sausages (optional)
  • few strings of fresh thyme (optional)
  • 1  cup of uncooked  rice
  • 1 cup of water to cook the rice in
  • 1-2 heads of large Savoy cabbage or green cabbage or sour cabbage leaves (about 18-20 leaves)
  • oil,
  • 4 garlic cloves,
  • ground black pepper
  • marjoram
  • 2 tsp of Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 2 eggs
  • hot pepper to taste
  • To serve: Sour cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Hot paprika or Erös Pista to taste
  • Salt to taste
Preparation

Meat stuffing

 

  • The day before you make the dish, prepare the meat stock. You just put all the ingredients together, bring to a boil, turn down and slowly cook for 8 hours. 
  • Fill a larger pot with cold water and start boiling it. This will be used to soften the leaves. Omit if you  have sour cabbage leaves. 
  • Cook the rice in the water. Just add enough water so it can cook but will not get soft. You are pre-cooking the rice here, it will continue cooking in the stuffing. 
  • While the rice is cooking, start preparing the base of the dish. Sauté some onion in some oil, add bacon if you desire and cook for 5-10 minute or until the onion looks nicely transulant and the bacon is crisp. Add paprika, stir and add a little cold liquid  (have it ready) and stir. Add 1 lb of the sour kraut and mix. I also like to add some meat, sausages to the dish. It is especially nice to add some smoked meat. 
  • Prepare the stuffing. Mix all ingredients  (the half cooked rice, sautéed onion, paprika, black pepper, garlic cloves,  salt, marjoram, eggs and the meat) together. 
  • Take the leaves off the cabbage gently one by one. Put the leaves in the boiling water (from step 2) for 1 minute or until they are soft.
  • Fill the cabbage leaves in the middle with about 1 heaping tablespoon of stuffing or more if leaf is bigger and fold them on all four sides so the stuffing is tucked inside the leaves nicely. Be careful you don’t fold them too tight because the mixture will expand a little. You can close the leaves with a toothpick if you want but it is really not necessary.  This may sound like a difficult task but really what you do here is you tuck the filling inside the leaves and fold each side onto the stuffing so it is nested inside the leaves. 
  • You can just lay the stuffed leaves on the bottom of the pot one by one next to each other pot, place the rest of the sour-kraut on top of the stuffed cabbage. 
  • Pour the meat  stock that you made the day before  into the pot. Bring the whole dish to a boil and turn down and cook on very low heat slowly for 1 ½  hours. 
  • Meanwhile you can prepare the pork chops. I like to serve some meat on the side so people who like a lot of meat or prefer not to have the stuffed cabbage can have some meat. Brown pork chops on both sides and a little white wine, bay leaves, and spices. Cook for 1 hour. 
  • When done, take cabbages out one by one and place them on a serving plate.  Then place the sour kraut mixture on the top and pour liquid over the dish. Serve the sour cream on top. Grind some fresh black pepper and add hot paprika to taste.

Merry Christmas! Enjoy!  Jó étvágyat!

Text, photos, recipe by twincitiesherbs.com