pulling trump

I have sort of a guilty, tenuous relationship with cranberries. I like them – quite a bit actually. The problem is that just about the time I learned to appreciate cranberries for something more than a red glossy tube that comes sliding out of a can, my father decided to get into the tart cherry business. Never one to do things in a small way, he set to planting tees – and lots of them. He had designs on becoming the Tart Cherry King of southeast Minnesota. Life can be sadly unpredictable though, and regrettably, he did not live to see the word “king” associated with his name. He did, however, manage to leave a legacy of tart cherries behind him. The months of June and July typically turn into one big red blur of a cherry harvest for my mother. Friends come. Family comes. Neighbors come. Restaurateurs come. Friends come again. And still, after all that, my mom generally maintains a freezer full of cherries.

Needless to say, I sort of have unlimited access to a lot of tart cherries. And I love them. To me, they are the perfect juicy blend of sweet and sour. This is where things get dicey with the cranberries. It has gotten to the point that when I come across a recipe involving cranberries, I almost inadvertently substitute the word cherry for cranberry. It’s easy – try it. “Cranberry hazelnut granola,” “cranberry upside down cake,” “cranberry almond muffins.” See? I mean it’s not that cranberries don’t sound good, but tart cherries? Now we’re talkin’ about something. And so it was no different with my favorite spicy cranberry chutney recipe. I think I made it one year using cranberries before the tart cherries pulled trump.

The original recipe came via my friend Julie who must have heard a Thanksgiving piece on NPR, because it came with a note that it is Susan Stamberg’s favorite cranberry side dish (unless Julie is holding out on me, I don’t believe she’s ever had Ms. Stamberg over for Thanksgiving dinner). Like a lot of recipes, I’ve adjusted it here and there – and in this case made a substitution of a homemade tart cherry sauce for the can of cranberry sauce originally called for. I highly recommend seeking out some frozen tart cherries, but if unlike me, you feel obliged to remain steadfast and loyal to the cranberry, the chutney will be almost as good. But not quite.

Guilty Garlicky Tart Cherry Chutney

16 oz frozen tart cherries
3/4 cup honey
1 rounded tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in about 1/4 cup of cold water

1 tablespoon of ginger – grated (a microplane works great for this)
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
ground white pepper (to taste)

Put frozen cherries and honey in a heavy sauce pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Let the cherries cook and bubble, stirring occasionally, for about 15 – 20 minutes. While they cook, periodically take a fork to the cherries and mash them up to your desired consistency. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook a for a few minutes longer until slightly thickened. Remove from heat.

In another sauce pan, combine ginger, garlic, vinegar, honey and cayenne. Bring to a simmer, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes or until there is roughly 1/4 cup of thick liquid left.

Add in the cherry sauce, salt, and pepper. Mix and bring to a gentle simmer fro about 5 -10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding a touch more honey, salt, or pepper if needed. Cool, store and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature.

Don’t just limit this to holiday feasts! This chutney is great in sandwiches and with all kinds of meat – pork, chicken, turkey, roast beef. It is also quite lovely with a smear of goat cheese on a cracker.

A very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

4 Responses to “pulling trump”

  1. 1 Judy Kaster November 23, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Jill, we love reading your blog! We have a couple of packages of your mom’s tart cherries in our freezer, waiting to be put in a pie – my favorite. I’m too selfish to share them at Thanksgiving!

    • 2 GarlicPig November 23, 2010 at 2:15 pm

      Thanks Judy! Cherry pie is right up there on my list too (and I’m not a big pie fan). I also have a cherry crumble that I enjoy for times I don’t want to mess with a pie crust. Have a lovely Thanksgiving.

  2. 3 Lee Kaster November 23, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    I did make “Mother Stamberg’s” recipe for cranberry relish, but found it disappointing, about 15 years ago. Lee

  3. 4 Julie November 28, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Oh man, I’ll have to ask Charly about this. Sounds incredible and on goat cheez looks devine. I’d love to have Ms. Stanberg for dinner. I’ll let you know if it ever happens. jb

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