With American Thanksgiving coming up, I’ve been seeing a lot of cranberry-related posts recently. We celebrated our Thanksgiving back in October with a BBQ chicken dinner with one side of the family and a surprise belated turkey dinner with the other. Little Handsome’s favourite part of both dinners was the turkey treats we made for everyone and brought along. I’m not sure how a mixture of cashews, pretzels, Shreddies and Reeces Pieces trump turkey, stuffing and cranberries, but then again, I’m not 3 years old.
I love Thanksgiving. I love that there is an entire weekend dedicated to being thankful. In our home, we’ve been taking a lot about how to cultivate a spirit of gratitude, one that flows naturally out of us and shapes the way we view the world.
The fall semeter of 2012 was my most memorable time ever as a teacher. It was definitely not the easiest semester, nor was it the most enjoyable per se, but I was the happiest, most productive and most fulfilled I’ve ever been in my career. I attribute it to the gratitude list I kept. Each morning (ok, it was actually most mornings) I would start the workday by writing down 3 things I was grateful for in that moment. I would add them to the ever-growing list only after reading through the entire list first. It really was the greatest way to start the work day. Last weekI started a new gratitude list, kept beside my bed. I’ve been keeping a mental list, but there’s something about writing it down and reviewing it that good for the soul. And I can always use more soul work.
One thing I’m grateful for is my little fermentation hobby. It’s a weird thing to type, I realize, but it really does give me joy to watch my little jars of bacteria-filled foods bubbling away. I love knowing that I’m doing something truly beneficial for my body, with very little effort, and (usually) great taste. Plus, jars of ferments are colourful and just plain pretty to look at.
And that brings us back to cranberries. I bought a bag of fresh cranberries back in October, intending to make a batch of fermented cranberry chutney, which is my second favourite ferment to date (after salsa, of course!) Well, it took me until yesterday to get around to making it, and now I’m just waiting for a bit more activity in the jar before I open it up and start enjoying Thanksgiving flavours all over again.
Cranberry chutney is sweet, spicy (think cloves, not chilis) and a little tangy. I add chopped apple and sometimes raisins to it, because I like the additional sweetness to balance the sour cranberries. I’ve tried making it with whole and ground spices, with and without nuts, chopped finely and a little chunkier, and I’ve liked each batch.
Ok, great, Larissa. Cranberry chutney. What in the world do you do with it?
- I place a dollop of it over goat cheese atop a rice cake. It makes a quick, satisfying snack.
- I eat it alongside chicken and vegetables. I feel it’s a more sophisticated version of the cranberries you might serve with turkey dinner.
- I top a bowl of oatmeal with yogurt and chutney for a warm and beautiful breakfast.
- But usually I just load it onto a sweet biscuit or granola bar. I love how the gentle bite of the cranberries and the fermentation mitigates the sweetness of the cookie.
Like I said, I’ve made this a few times. My first batch really came to life. I’d get a little pop when I would open the jar and release the built up gasses, and the sounds coming from the chutney reminded me of the famous snap, crackle and pop of Rice Krispies. My last Qatari attempt, while tasty, was quite flat. This is what fascinates and baffles me about cultured foods. The difference might be whether I use frozen cranberries or fresh. (I assume the bacteria usually found on produce is killed by the freezing process, which would hinder the production of LABs, and in turn, might account for the variation in “fizz”). Or it might be the temperature in my kitchen (Middle Eastern winter vs. Middle Eastern summer vs. Canadian fall). Or it might be the lack of starter culture (I know fruit are more finicky than veggies when it comes to culturing). Or it might be the fact that I fail to follow the recipe exactly. (I’m not good at following recipes. I’m even worse at making notes while I’m cooking so I can recreate something. To me the best part of working in the kitchen is the ability to be creative, which measuring and recording tends to stifle.) Or it might be all of the above.
Anyway, even if the probiotic benefits are minimal in a particular batch, there are still health benefits from cranberries (and all those other good ingredients in there), and maybe the next batch will be the one that really pops.
So the chutney is basically this recipe.
I highly recommend heading to the original recipe, measuring and whatnot. But here’s a recap of my most recent batch:
Fermented Cranberry Chutney
2 heaping cups of fresh cranberries, pulsed in food processor
3 clementines, peeled and pureed in food processor
1 apple, finely diced
ground cinnamon, cloves, ginger, sucanat (sugar) and salt to taste*
(Optional additions: raisins, finely chopped walnuts or pecans, fresh lemon juice, culture starter)
Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a Fido jar, add a pickl-it lid, and let it sit on the counter for a couple of days – until the bubbles have calmed down. Once open, store in the fridge. It will continue to ferment, but more slowly in the fridge. It’s probably best to eat it within a couple of months.
*I definitely don’t recommend the adding salt to taste method. Salt is what keeps the bad bacteria at bay so the good bacteria can ferment the food. Again, if you’re interested in trying this out yourself, please follow a proper recipe.
Mmm…Thanksgiving all year long!