Yikes. It’s been a whole lot of sale, sponsorship, and giveaway posts around here lately, hasn’t it. Let’s get back to the pickles and preserves, shall we?
I know most people see Thanksgiving as the high point of the cranberry season, but I keep buying and using them until the last bag disappears from store shelves. I also always stash a few bags in the freezer for those moments in February when I must have some cranberry bread.
Last week, inspired the last drops of liquid left over from a batch of pickled cranberries, I devised a quick cranberry shrub. It is just a combination of cranberries, apple cider vinegar, a little water (since cranberries are so dry, they don’t add any moisture to the party), sugar, and spices. You simmer it all together until the cranberries pop.
Once the contents of your saucepan have had a chance to cool (and steep just a bit more), you position a strainer over a large bowl or measuring cup and run the contents of the pot through it. You end up with a very tasty, tart syrup and a sticky mound of berries and whole spices.
I like to dip a few spoonfuls of the shrub into a wide mouth quart jar and then fill it all the way up with fizzy water. The sharpness of the vinegar carries the flavor of the berries better than a syrup made without any additional acid and so it takes very little to brighten up a water or your favorite cocktail (I have it on very good authority that 3/4oz cranberry shrub + 1oz whiskey + 3oz champagne makes for a deliciously celebratory adult beverage).
If you choose to make this, I highly suggest that you take those sticky solids and push them through a food mill or fine mesh sieve. You’ll end up with a highly spiced cranberry paste. You could serve it just as it is with some cheddar cheese (packed into a little ramekin) or you could do like I did and stir it into a batch of freshly made applesauce. It adds gorgeous color to the sauce and would be awfully good with a batch of freshly fried latkes (which starts on December 16).
Spiced Cranberry Shrub
- 1 12- ounce bag of fresh cranberries
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup filtered water
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 inches fresh ginger coarsely chopped
- 2 star anise pieces
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon black pepper corns
- Combine the cranberries, vinegar, water, sugar, and spices in a medium saucepan.
- Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the berries have popped. This should take about ten minutes of cooking.
- Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for 15 minutes or so.
- Position a fine mesh sieve over a bowl or measuring cup that can hold at least 8 cups and pour the contents of your saucepan through. Let it sit and drip. If you want a clear syrup, resist the urge to press on the solids.
- Pour the finished shrub into a quart jar and refrigerate. You can also process it in small jars for longer storage and gift giving if you prefer. Ten minutes for pints and half pints will do the trick.
- Push the solids through a sieve or food mill. Serve with cheese or add to applesauce.