On Sparkling Cranberries
Having a kiddo changes a lot of things (all of the things?) and the Holidays are no exception. My husband and I are not holiday people. We generally do not give gifts, we do not decorate the house, we do not travel, we do not listen to Christmas music unless it is Christmas Day. We do not go crazy. Since at least one of us has been in school for the whole 9 years of our marriage, Thanksgiving has traditionally been a time to study for finals and, of course, to cook while procrastinating studying for finals. Likewise, winter break has traditionally been a time to crash after a hard semester, and to cook all the wonderful things we didn’t have time for while school was in session.
Holiday traditions, it is true, are few and far between in our little family. There are a some things, though, that we have adopted, and one of them is Sparkling Cranberries for Thanksgiving.
Even though I love food, and I hope Remy has many, many wonderful memories around food, I don’t have many childhood connections to any food in particular. My great grandmother made the most wonderful pies – and I don’t even try to compete with those memories. She also made – and taught me to make – a wonderful Cherry-Spice Cake, which I haven’t made in years. (Maybe this is the year!). I suspect that my general lack of fond-food-memories is why I think so much about the smells and tastes that will surround Remy as he grows up. Around the holidays, Tom and I have often made marshmallows and caramels, french toast, hot chocolate, waffles, cinnamon rolls, and all manner of delicious things that can’t even pretend to be good for you.
Sparkling Cranberries at least pretend to be healthy (sort of). Sure, they’re covered in two (or three!) kinds of sugar, but at their core, they’re still a fruit. We’ve made them almost every year since moving to Colorado, and they never disappoint. There are two important rules: they must be started the night before, and they must be served in the gold Fire King bowl.
I have to admit that this year, I’m excited to have Remy try these Cranberries. Even if he doesn’t like the fruit, surely he’ll enjoy sucking the sugar coating off.
adapted from 101cookbooks.com
The night before you want to enjoy your cranberries, pick through 2 bags of fresh cranberries while a simple syrup of 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water is doing its thing on your stovetop. If you’ve never picked through cranberries before, don’t be intimidated. I use a large, clear pyrex bowl. Fill it with water and dump one bag of cranberries at a time inside. Any cranberries that don’t float should be tossed. You can also throw any that look too swishy. I keep the first picked through bag in a strainer while I do the second batch since I only have one giant glass bowl. When you’re done, drain all the water and put both sets of picked through berries back in the big bowl.
Once you’re done picking through, your simple syrup should be about done. Something I’ve played with is adding a big of flavor to my syrup, which you can do with orange rinds, a vanilla bean, some red hots, or whatever strikes your fancy. Try it plain first, and then have fun with it. Anyway, once your syrup is done, turn off the heat and let it cool for about a minute. Then, pour the warm (but not crazy hot) syrup over your berries. Cover with plastic wrap and set in the fridge overnight.
You’ll need two kinds of sugar for day two, at least two half sheet baking pans, and some slotted spoons. You can pull the soaking cranberries right out of the syrup filled bowl.
For phase one, you’ll want larger grained sugar. You can buy fancy candy sugar but I have had really good luck with “natural” sugar at the mexican market in my town. You want the grains to be larger than your basic c+h blend. Pour about a cup into a cereal bowl and use a slotted spoon to scoop out a few of the soaking cranberries. You can stir the berries around in the sugar, or pick up the bowl and shake it like you’re sifting flour. Once generally covered, set the cranberries out on a baking sheet.
This takes a long time, leave yourself at least an hour. Then let set for another hour or more.
For phase two, you’ll be using regular grain sugar. Same idea, pour about a cup (or less) into a cereal bowl at a time to give the berries another coat of sugar. This phase goes much faster than the first phase. Give your self at least 30 minutes, then about an hour after to dry on the cookie sheets. Sneak a few to reward yourself for work well done.
Put in a pretty bowl. Enjoy.