Saturday, October 11, 2014

Say "Nicole’s Cranberry-Maple-Ginger Sauce... or Syrup..." or just say AMAZING...

You know, I think autumn may be my favorite cooking season of the year, what with soups and stews and pot roasts and gingerbread and hot cider and pumpkin pie and any number of other fall treats. I love the fresh foods of summer, but there's something about the lengthening fall days and cooler temps that makes fall comfort foods feel like balm for the weary soul.

Along those lines, I get excited when I see fresh cranberries pop up on the store shelves. They appeared last week, and my mind immediately went to an amazing concoction my friend Nicole turned me on to last year: fresh cranberry-ginger-maple sauce. It's easy to make, tastes decadent, and lasts for months, and a creative cook can use it in a myriad of scrumptious ways. (I love a good chance to use the word scrumptious, don't you?)

For one batch, you'll need:
  • 2 Cups (about 12 ounces) fresh cranberries, washed and sorted (gooshy ones tossed out)
  • 1 1/4 Cup water
  • 1/3 Cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger-- a 2-3" chunk, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 Cup pure maple syrup-- I like the 'B' grade
Combine the berries, water, and sugar in a medium saucepan (right). Bring to a boil, then cover, lower the heat, and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer until reduced by half (about 10 more minutes). And note: if you want a thicker sauce, boil it a little longer until it reduces more; if it over-reduces, just stir in water a spoonful at a time until it's the right consistency.

Remove from the heat and stir in the ginger (right). (Nicole notes, "sometimes we go double on the ginger." I think she's onto something.)

Let the mixture cool (the recipe says for at least half an hour, but I have trouble waiting that long) and stir in the maple syrup.

At this point, it's ready to use--warm or cool. It can be stored in the fridge for, well, I've had it in there for months with no problems. It also freezes very well. (It would make an awesome Yule gift, maybe packed with some extra-special gingerbread mix.)

How to use the amazing sauce? When Nicole first introduced me to it, her official recommendation was to pour it over gingerbread waffles. I tried this, and yes. She was right. I mean, YES.

But since then, I've also served it on pancakes (in the picture below, it's spooned over pumpkin pancakes--yum!), used it to top oatmeal (with a handful of toasted walnuts), and spooned it over warm gingerbread, along with a dollop of whipped heavy cream. I've stirred it into a spoon of mayonnaise for dressing turkey sandwiches and I've slipped it into peanut butter sandwiches. I've poured it over ice cream, and once I even made a quite wonderful milkshake with it. I've used it for meats and poultry, too: it's an amazing topping for pork chops or sliced tenderloin, and it makes a good simmer sauce for chicken as well. And can I be honest? I'm not opposed to just taking a jar of the sauce out of the 'fridge and eating a big 'ol spoonful plain. Now you know.

Bottom line? Get yourself some cranberries and make a batch of this pronto. You won't be disappointed. And thanks, Nicole!


Health-wise, cranberries are known as a "super food," ridiculously high in antioxidants, vitamins C and E, and fiber-- a perfect addition to one's fall and winter immune-boosting arsenal. Ginger is known in Chinese medicine as a warming herb and is believed to stimulate the immune and circulatory systems. It's also famous for relaxing the digestive tract and settling an upset stomach. As for maple, it's a form of unrefined sugar-- but it also contains minerals, including a significant amount of manganese, zinc, and iron and trace amounts of other minerals.

From a magickal standpoint, cranberries are known for their protective qualities and for boosting vitality, and like most berries, they have a feminine correspondence. As for ginger? It's inherent "warmth" and the fact that the roots often look somewhat human make them ideal for magickal works involving love and connection. Maple is also useful in love and lunar magicks and has strong healing properties as well. There you have it. 

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