Cranberry Jamming

Cranberries are the culinary jewels of the holiday season. The garnet-hued gems add a glorious burst of color and flavor to Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holiday feastings. Their incomparable tart taste makes a fabulous foil to other traditional foods. Nowadays, however, that essential smattering of snappy, seasonal cranberry flavor often comes in the shape of a can – literally. Now, while there is nothing wrong with enjoying the simple pleasure of the ubiquitous and much-loved, store-bought essential, explore the myriad of marvelous ways cranberries can put a little extra pucker and pizzazz in your life — and on your plate. 

Cranberries add a touch of tang to chutney, sauces, snacks and desserts, including cakes, tarts, muffins and pies. They are also grand with game, sweet potatoes, apples, oranges,  maple syrup and nuts. And, they make a fun addition when sprinkled into a seasonal salad. Fresh cranberries are generally only available from mid-September through December, but they can be stored in the refrigerator for about two weeks or frozen for up to a year. So, stock up while the season is upon us because it’s a short one. Here, well-known local chefs from both sides of the Bay share a repertoire of flavorful recipes creatively highlighting the red, ripe cranberry. 

Pan-Roasted Venison Short Loin with Cranberry Sauce

The following is a recipe chef Ryan Glass of Camellia Café plans to run at the restaurant during fall and winter.

4 (6- to 8-ounce) portions of venison short loin or back strap
salt and pepper, to taste
1 ounce of blended olive and vegetable oil
1 – 2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 sprig favorite autumn herb (rosemary, thyme, sage etc.)
Cranberry Sauce (see recipe, below)

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1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat until it starts to smoke. Meanwhile, season venison with salt and pepper. 
2. Add blended olive and vegetable oil to skillet, then brown on each side for 1 – 2 minutes depending on thickness. 
3. Remove skillet from stove and place in 400-degree oven for 2 – 4 minutes, based on thickness and desired degree of doneness. 
4. Remove from oven and add butter, garlic and herb to skillet and stir. Use butter mixture to baste the venison. Let meat rest 1 minute before slicing. Season with salt and pepper and serve with Cranberry Sauce. Serves 4.

Cranberry Sauce

1/2 cup of satsuma juice (may substitute orange juice)
1/4 cup of ruby port
1/4 cup of honey
1 tablespoon of grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice or cinnamon
1/2 cup of sugar (more if needed) 
1 (16-ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries
pinch of salt
lemon juice, to taste

1. Combine satsuma juice, port, honey, ginger, allspice and sugar in a pot. Allow to boil. Reduce to simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Add cranberries. Simmer for another 15 minutes and season with salt. 
3. Adjust acid and sweetness with lemon juice and additional sugar if needed or to taste. Allow to cool. Makes several cups.

Sweet Potato and Turnip Gratin

This scrumptious side dish pairs perfectly with venison. It is a favorite of chef Ryan Glass of the Camellia Café.

2 tablespoons butter
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced on mandolin
4 medium turnips, peeled and thinly sliced on mandolin
3 cups cream
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 medium onions, caramelized
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups grated Parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Rub a large rimmed cookie sheet with butter. Place the sweet potatoes, alternating with turnip slices on the cookie sheet overlapping by ½-inch (like fish scales).
3. Slowly pour the cream over the potatoes and turnips. Sprinkle with the minced garlic and onions. Then, season with salt and pepper.
4. Top with Parmesan and bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until nice and brown on top. Serves 6.

Cranberry-Dijon Pork Chops

These succulent chops make an excellent entree for an autumn repast. Chakli Diggs, the talented owner of the ever-popular NoJa in Mobile’s downtown LoDa, created the recipe just for MB.

1 medium apple, peeled,  cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dried cranberries or 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/8 teaspoon pepper
dash salt
dash ground nutmeg
1 – 2 teaspoons grape-seed oil
2 teaspoons butter
4 (4- to 6-ounce) pork chops (bone-in or out)

1. In a small bowl, combine the first 12 ingredients.
2. Then, coat a large frying pan with grape-seed oil, add butter and swirl pan to melt. 
3. Add pork chops and brown over medium-high heat, for 3 – 4 minutes on each side. 
4. Stir in fruit and herb mixture, bring to a boil. 
5. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 3 – 4 minutes on each side, until done or until a thermometer reads 145 degrees. Serves 4.

Cranberry Satsuma Rice

This makes a stunning, seasonal side dish, especially splendid for serving alongside turkey or game. Satsumas, also in season this time of year, add citrus pizzazz.

2 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 1/4 cups long grain rice
1/2 cup satsuma juice (may substitute orange)
2 – 3 teaspoons grated satsuma or orange zest
1 teaspoon hot mustard
a pinch of ground cloves
1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
olive oil, vegetable oil or cooking spray
strips of satsuma or orange zest for garnish, optional

1. Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a pot, add rice then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for about 18 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring the satsuma juice, grated zest, mustard and ground cloves to a boil in a saucepan. Add the cranberries, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
3. Stir cranberry mixture into rice and simmer gently for an additional 3 – 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste.
4. Spoon the rice into desired oiled or cooking sprayed mold, or individual ramekins. Press down firmly, turn out carefully onto platter or plates and garnish with zest strips. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 4 servings.

Roasted Cranberry Glazed Poussins Stuffed with Herbed Cornbread Dressing 

Chef Tyler Kean, of The Fairhope Inn, shared this recipe for poussins (French for small young chickens). It was created by the chef de cuisine, Charles Byrne, for this column and will be featured on the Inn’s winter menu. It will be served with sides of green beans and fried shallot strings.

4 (16-ounce) poussins, deboned (available at Mosley’s) 
1 quart Cornbread Dressing (see recipe below)
4 teaspoons butter
salt and pepper, to taste
Cranberry Glace (see recipe, below)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Stuff each poussin with 1 cup prepared Cornbread Dressing, cross feet and tie with butcher’s twine. 
3. Place poussins into a 9-by-11-inch baking dish. 
4. Rub 1 teaspoon of butter on outside of each poussin and season with salt and pepper.
5. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes, or until internal temperature reads 165 degrees.
6. While the poussins are cooking, make the Cranberry Glace.
7. Drizzle the Cranberry Glace atop each poussin. Serves 4.

Cornbread Dressing

1 pan basic cornbread (made from mix or homemade)
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
butter or oil
1 cup chicken stock
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped 
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Crumble cornbread into a large bowl. 
2. In a pan, sauté the celery, onion and bell pepper in butter or oil until translucent. Then spoon over cornbread in the bowl. 
3. Stir in all remaining ingredients until well combined. 
4. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Makes approximately 4 cups.

Cranberry Glace

2 quarts chicken stock
1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
2 tablespoons honey
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a sauce pot on the stove, boil chicken stock until reduced by half. 
2. Add cranberries, honey and lemon zest. Reduce to about 1 1/2 cups. 
3. Finish the sauce with 1 tablespoon of butter, thyme, salt and pepper. Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups.

Green Beans with Fried Shallot Strings

This crispy side is a stellar accompaniment to chef Tyler Kean of the Fairhope Inn’s Roasted Poussins Stuffed with Herbed Cornbread Dressing with Cranberry Glaze.

1/2 cup canola oil
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons flour
1 pound green beans, trimmed and blanched
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 – 2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat canola oil in a skillet or fryer to 275 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, season shallots with salt. The shallots will sweat, add flour and toss together. If needed, add a little more flour to prevent shallots from sticking together.
3. Fry at 275 degrees in canola oil until they just start to brown. Remove shallots from oil and drain on a paper towel until ready to use.
4. In a sauté pan, warm green beans with chicken stock, butter, salt and pepper.
5. Arrange green beans on a platter. Garnish with fried shallots. Serves 4. 

Cranberry Macadamia Tarts

These sweet, petite treats are perfect pick-ups for holiday parties, family festivities or gift giving.

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup flour
1 stick butter, softened
1 egg
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup finely chopped cranberries
1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Beat the cream cheese, flour and butter together until well combined. Cover and chill for 1 hour. 
3. In a medium bowl, beat together the egg, brown sugar, melted butter and vanilla. Add the cranberries and macadamia nuts. 
4. Once the dough is chilled, divide it into 1-inch balls and press into ungreased mini-muffin tins. Fill each with a spoonful of the cranberry nut filling. Bake in the oven for about 18 -20 minutes. Makes approximately 2 dozen.

text and styling by Sallye Irvine • photos by todd douglas

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