I Love holidays!  Love with a capital L (as you can see).  I’m like a little kid, I get completely overexcited about holidays, especially the winter holidays that bring friends and family together around festive tables to combat the potential dreary winter blues.  And, I’m an absolute sucker for traditions.  I’m one of those people who likes to do the exact same thing every year for each holiday and heaven help you if you try to get me to change because it’ll be an uphill battle (though I’m always ready to adopt new traditions to have in addition to those I was raised with)!  I firmly believe that having the rhythm and dependability of strong traditions in our families and on our holidays roots us in a way that allows us to then be more creative and accepting of differences in the rest of life.

Given this, you can probably guess about how much variation there is from year to year in what I think should be cooked and served for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  That’s right.  Zippo!  Same thing, every year, and it’s good every time!  On the other hand, I feel completely free to experiment with the principle ingredients of holiday dishes the rest of time.  Right now I’ve been playing with cranberries, for example.  I got, shall we say, a little enthusiastic when I was buying cranberries in preparation for Thanksgiving.  So, I’ve been using cranberries in other ways, besides as a side dish for the bird.  One of the first places they showed up was in several loaves of pumpkin bread.  I also tried drying some – that was a total fiasco.  Now I’ve moved on to pairing them with savory dishes.  Turkey isn’t the only meat that goes well with a bit of something sweet-tart on the side.  Pork and chicken, basically the other white meats, are good with cranberries as well (and though I’ve never tried it, I would imagine that salmon, baked with mustard on it (don’t ask why but I imagine cranberry sauce being good with mustard, maybe I had it on a sandwich once) would be good with cranberries too – I may try it and get back to you).

Pan fried pork chops are one of the easiest dinners you can make (if you eat pork).  To cook pork chops, you can literally just salt and pepper them and then fry them over medium heat in a little butter or oil, turning them over every 5 minutes or so for 20-some minutes if they’re bone-in chops.  You have to cut into the thickest part to see if it’s done; it should have no pink, or just the slightest tinge of pink, left.  Anyway, these fried pork chops, then, are a canvas for any number of sauces because pork pairs well with everything.  The simplest is to toss a little wine, brandy, apple cider, or cream into the pan you just fried the chops in (aka deglazing) and scrape up the browned bits on the pan bottom into the liquid, let the liquid boil down just a bit and then use that as a sauce.  Pork is also good with most cooked fruit, like sautéed apple slices, or prunes that have been simmered for a while in wine or another cooking alcohol.  Which is why I decided to make a cranberry chutney.  I had some leftover dried figs in my pantry that I figured would be good with the cranberries – because they’re so tart cranberries need either a good dose of sugar or to be paired with another sweeter fruit (like apples, pears, dried apricots or figs, orange marmalade…), or both.  Cranberry flavor is delicious in and of itself, but it is also nice with warm spices, like ginger and cinnamon.  And, because I wanted to use the cranberry in a savory dish, I decided to add some curry powder, to make more of a chutney instead of a compote.  All the cooking required is putting the fruit, spices, sugar or honey and a little liquid together in a pot, bringing it to a boil, lowering it to a simmer, and then letting it cook until it becomes thick and sauce-like.  And the very best part of the whole endeavor is that cranberries pop as you simmer them!

Because I still had more cranberries, I decided to make the rest into a sauce with another fruit I had on hand, pears.  This took longer, but eventually it cooked down to the consistency of a chunky applesauce.  I then took it and put it in a couple of cleaned out jars, which I stuck in the fridge.  It’s making an excellent snack on it’s own and as a topping for plain yogurt.

Cranberry Fig Chutney

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries, washed (and get rid of any rotten ones)
  • ¼-1/2 cup dried figs (or other dried fruit), cut into smaller pieces
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh (or candied!) ginger, or 1 tsp. dried
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1-2 tsp. curry powder
  • ¼ cup honey (or sugar.  You can add more to taste depending on how sweet you like things.)
  • ¾ cup water
  1. Add all ingredients to a pot, cover and bring to a boil.  Remove cover, turn heat down to simmer, and let everything simmer together, stirring occasionally, until all the cranberries are popped the figs are soft and the sauce has thickened, probably around 20-30 minutes. 
  2. Serve with pork, turkey, or chicken.  It’s also delicious with Brie or another creamy cheese on bread.  I would even try it as a topping for vanilla ice cream.

Cranberry Pear Sauce

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries, washed (and get rid of any rotten ones)
  • 4 pears, cored and cut into smallish chunks
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • ¼ cup honey or sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  1. Put everything in a pot, cover, and bring to a boil.  Turn down to a simmer, leaving the lid on.  As they cook, the pears will add moisture to the sauce.  If it appears to be getting too dry, add little bits of water.  Stir occasionally.  Cook until all the fruit is soft and mushing together.  Cool and serve.  This will keep in tupper ware or jars in the fridge for a number of weeks.
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2 Responses to Cranberry-fig chutney + cranberry pear sauce

  1. Beth Storaasli says:

    Maybe you’re remembering our recipe for baked/barbequed salmon that has a butter/dijon mustard sauce on the fish when baked, then a sauce of sauted green onions, lingonberries and redwine vinegar served on top. It’s yummy!

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