Religion and Cranberries

It’s the holiday season, which means my apartment smells like peppermint bark and gingerbread.

However, holidays are also about more than food and friends…many of our “traditions” come down to religion and pagan practices.  Which reminds me of my nickname for my first six months of life…

Pagan Megan.

Yes, you have to say it so that “pagan” rhymes with “megan,” which means my first name sounds more like “may-gun” for nickname purposes. (I actually taught a kid at summer camp with that spelling, but that’s another story.)

And who gave me this nickname, you ask?

Oh yeah, the PRIEST at my church, good ol’ Monsignor M.

Like good Catholics, my parents decided to have me baptized.  However, between family schedules and whatnot, it wasn’t “convenient” for this to take place in the spring…or the summer…nope, the date of my baptism was two days shy of my six month birthday.  However, it was convenient to bring their darling screaming infant daughter (my case of colic was so legendary, my now 85-year-old pediatrician still calls me her “little colicky baby”- I was the worst case of colic she has seen to date) to church every week.  Therefore, one plus one does equal two, and as an encouragement for my parents to finally buckle down with the sacraments, Monsignor decided that a winning nickname would be the best way to take advantage of Catholic guilt.

In honor of my nickname, and not to mention the holidays, here is my recipe for cranberry sauce…perfect for serving with turkey, as a topping for steak and goat cheese, or as a sauce for ice cream.

Non-Denominational Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 12-oz bag fresh cranberries
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • Zest and juice from 1 orange
  • 2/3 c sugar (can add more to taste if cranberries are extra-tart)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c water, plus 1/2 c for later
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (secret ingredient!!)

How-to

  1. Rinse cranberries and dump into a nonreactive saucepan (I prefer a larger size, but have made this before with a 2 QT one)
  2. Add the zest and juice from the lemon and orange, sugar, vanilla, and water to the cranberries.
  3. Turn on your burner to medium-high heat and cook for approximately 10 minutes.  The mixture will start to boil and the cranberries will pop, so don’t wear your best light-colored shirt while making this unless you’re aiming for a red-spot look!
  4. When about half the cranberries have popped (this may take longer than 10 minutes, depending on the weather and your elevation), mix 1/2 c cold water with 4 tbsp cornstarch and add to the cranberry mixture.  Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes until the sauce has reached your desired thickness (remember it will thicken more as it cools, but you’re aiming for something that does have a consistency of runny gravy).
  5. Turn off the heat, and add 1/2 tsp nutmeg (or more to taste).  DO NOT make this sauce if you don’t have nutmeg, in my opinion…the nutmeg gives it a spiciness that sets it apart from other cranberry sauces!
  6. Let cool for approximately 5-10 minutes.  Serve warm or cold on nearly anything (turkey, chicken, steak, ice cream, crackers, cheese…the list goes on and on!).