Today’s guest post is from adventurer and home canner Heather Francis. She is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada but has lived and worked on the ocean for over a decade. A professional cook who’s worked on both land and sea, these days you’ll find her in the galley of Kate, the Newport 41’ sloop she and her Aussie partner, Steve, have been sailing since 2008. They are currently looking for wind in the Philippines. Follow their adventures on Yacht Kate.
I hate store-bought versions of cranberry sauce, you know the ones. They slide out of the can with that sickening “slurp” sound that reminds you of feeding the cat in the morning and stand erect on the plate, wobbling. Or they come in a little jar, have a uniform smooth texture and so much sugar in them they should really be labelled “Cranberry Jam.”
The cranberry sauce that I like is slightly tart and full of fruit, ready to burst on your tongue. It is all about the cranberries, with just hints of other flavours to dress it up for a special occasion. Ideally, I would make it just as I am about to serve it with our holiday feast, and usually there is only just enough for leftovers on Boxing Day.
However, I have spent the last decade sailing in the tropics, not a place where cranberries grow, let alone get shipped. So our holiday roasted chicken (they also don’t grow turkeys in these parts) have been accompanied by a mango chutney. Not at all a bad stand in but not quite what I crave this time a year.
This fall, after five long years, I was lucky enough to make a trip back to Nova Scotia. Not only did I get a chance to catch up with family, but I spent some time at my Mother’s stove making a few batches of seasonal preserves.
Nova Scotia is the “Wild Blueberry Capital of the World” and this year was a bumper crop that lasted well into a very warm September. Two rounds of jam, a few pies and a traditional Blueberry Grunt and the freezer was still overflowing. Then October rolled around, and the first cranberries hit the grocery stores. I jumped at the opportunity to put two of my favourite berries in the same jar.
Ready in less than half an hour this compote is a dressed-up version of the classic cranberry sauce but is simple to put together. You can use fresh or frozen berries and have a light hand with the sugar since cranberries always set so well. I like using the petite 4 oz. jars, they make for a nice gift and are a little easier to fit in your luggage. The addition of almonds and a hefty splash of rum (I am a sailor!) make it feel special enough to add to a cheese board.
I won’t be heading home for the holidays this year, but I will be enjoying a little taste of Nova Scotia with my festive feast in the Philippines. I hope you enjoy it too.