Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Popping Cranberries

I'm going to tell you something embarrassing, but sometimes we have to do the embarrassing stuff to get to the good stuff. Kind of like learning from your mistakes.

 I like to let the kids try new foods. Think of it as a culinary adventure. In the summer I will pick up interesting new fruits like apple-pears or star fruit. Recently I picked up pomegranate seeds. The kids thought they were yummy, except for the seed part. In the fall I get a variety of squash and we examine or sometimes even bake them. I saw a big bag of cranberries in the store and I thought to myself, wow, what a great treat. After all they love cran-raisins. So after school one day I poured a heaping bowl of fresh cranberries for each child They were so excited. They look red and plump, a little like grapes. Fun. Um, or not. Each child 'ewwwed' and promptly spit it out.

 I was so surprised that they didn't like them. Lainy Ann said, "You should try them, mom." So I did. And then I ewwwed and spit it out. Yuck! While the texture was pleasant they were so sour and bitter. And I laughed and remembered the primary ingredient in my mother's cranberry sauce is sugar. I gathered up all the cranberries and put them away to be used in some other fashion.

 A few days later we decided to have an early Thanksgiving dinner with Grandma Lou. All of our favorite foods abbreviated for a week night; chicken breast instead of turkey, canned candied yams, a Costco pumpkin pie, and canned cranberry sauce. But then I remembered I had raw cranberries in the fridge. So Connor and I set out on another adventure. We followed the recipe on the back of the bag, but honestly I had no idea what I was doing. The recipe said to boil one cup water and one cup sugar. Then add the cranberries until they pop. Then let the mixture simmer to thicken. I don't recall covering 'popping cranberries' in my foods course and my mother makes a very delicious raw cranberry sauce, so her cranberries don't pop either. We decided to just jump right in and if the mixture was horrible then we still had our back up canned cranberry sauce.

 We combined, boiled and then added the cranberries. We waited for them to 'pop'. I was thinking it was going to be kind of like a turkey when the meat thermometer pops out, but honestly I had no idea. Connor became bored with staring at the pot for 10 minutes and started to wander off when POP! Sugar water went flying into the air. POP! POP! POP! More cranberries were popping. We had a crowd at the stove trying to peer into the pot. But not wanting to get too close in fear of the splattering sugar water. The cranberries were literally splitting open from the pressure inside of them created by the heat of the pan. Its was quite fascinating. Connor got his first lesson in splattering food and how much it hurts. When the popping settled down I turned the stove down to simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Once it cooled we had a mixture that was jellied with whole cranberries inside. It was wonderful, and so very easy. I found a variety of recipes online including adding crushed pineapple or pecans. It definitely seems like a recipe I can dress up for the future.

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