Generally on Thanksgiving the cranberry sauce is the odd man out. Either it’s guiltily shimmied out of a tin can and onto a small plate, homemade and then somewhat forgotten in the rush to get a first piece of pie, or just plain admired for its good looks against the turkey’s pale flesh. This year we decided to try something different. I had found this fabulous recipe for Cranberry-Date Chutney from One Hot Stove. I felt it needed a little smokiness and some citrus so we added a chipotle and some orange zest. The result was spectacular and unexpected. Not only was it a prize at the table, we’ve been using the leftovers ever since. It kept really well considering there’s no dairy or other highly perishable ingredients.
We put it into three beautiful pies to give some sweet and smokey umph to berries and apples. It was my first try at a butter crust! She was an incredible, flaky crust, but what a fussy little b*tch. Any overworking and she turned tough and hard. Thankfully, though we coaxed her into flaky submission.
We also swirled the chutney with yogurt and mixed it with wheat berries, nuts, and dried fruit for a smokey alternate to Heidi’s Wheat Berry Breakfast Bowl.
The special sauce that perks up the oldies at a holiday party is everyone’s favorite.
Beware of Bear
In other news a black bear has been roaming around near our back door. There was a 75 pound pumpkin not two feet from our door that the bear helpfully rolled down the front steps and ceremoniously plopped 10 feet away before abandoning the project altogether. We spent a few days all asking each other who had moved the pumpkin. When our horticulturist extraordinaire, Tom, rolled it over he discovered the above claw marks. Upon further investigation he found a huge bear print heading off of our front walk. Previous bear sightings included my dad encountering the bear in the driveway and Matt spotting it out by our wood shed some 100 feet from the door. We are accumulating a number of local black bear stories. The males, who can reach 600 pounds and 6 feet in height, have been spotted in the yards and dumpsters of many surrounding neighbors.
An electrician, Jeremy, who came to install lights near mom’s pizza oven admits to (probably drunkenly) feeding a bear marshmallows from the safety (ahem) of his deck through the (presumably skimpy) wooden railing. He considered the bear, “a dumb, lumbering animal” while it first seemed disinterested with the marshmallow and shuffled forwards and backwards, and then finally chomped down on one. Before he knew it, however, the bear spotted his cat and lept over Jeremy’s head to grab the small feline, which thankfully flew indoors like cats do. The moral of Jeremy’s story, as he so eloquently and wisely put it while he stood stunned on his porch and nearly escaped death: bears are not dumb. Our moral: humans are dumb. Stay tuned for more stories…
Chipotle Cranberry Date Chutney
3 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and any bad ones discarded
3 cups dates, seeded and chopped
3 cups water
Zest of 1/2 orange
1 chipotle, stem removed and wiped down with a wet paper towel
Bring all the ingredients, except the chipotle, to a boil on medium in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Once it comes to a boil, add the chipotle and turn down to simmer. Cover and simmer until the berries are soft, about 15 minutes. Taste and add salt. Remove from heat and puree in a blender. Taste and adjust seasonings.