Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Cranberry Chutney

The real "Art" in cooking comes when you manage to take several ingredients that have no business hanging out together, and you convince them to "sing" together in a dish that sounds like a heavenly choir. For example, nobody in a zillion years would ever expect to find cranberries, sugar, onions, and garlic playing blissfully together in the same playground and yet here they are, thicker than thieves!

My friend Barbara passed this along to me and it is nothing short of miraculous.  Poured over a block of cream cheese, or a warm Brie, this Chutney will make any Christmas appetizer table proud:

You will need:
Round 1:
  • 1 Cup of Sugar
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion (small dice)
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic (Minced)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cardamom
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Powdered Ginger
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Cup Water

Round 2:
  • 2 Cups Fresh Cranberries (Chopped)
  • 1/4 Cup Vinegar
  • 1 Cup Raisins
  • 4 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
Round 3:
  • 2 Tablespoons Corn Starch
  • 2 Tablespoons Cold Water
One quick word about the Cardamom and Cloves, if you can't find the ground powdery version of these spices, you can put whole cloves and cardamom pods into a coffee grinder and get "medieval" on them!  Heck, they may even "Christmafy" your next batch of morning coffee!  You're welcome...  Combine all of the ingredients from Round 1 (above) into a pot and bring it all to a boil.  Keep stirring until all of the sugar is dissolved.  Let it boil for about 10-15 minutes.  I know what you're thinking... "Onions, Garlic, and... CLOVES?  SUGAR??"  Yes.  Trust me.

After ten minutes or so, add the stuff from Round 2 (above) into the pot.  Stir it together, introducing the berries to the onions and the ginger to the raisins, etc.  Be their host!  Help them to feel at home with lots of gentle stirring.  Smiles all around... Brown sugar, White sugar, all blissfully getting along.  Stir and boil for a few minutes longer.

After five minutes or so, the raisins will plump up with juice and get all full of themselves.  They'll try to start a fight.  This is typical raisin behavior... Just keep stirring and the froth from the fighting will settle when all of the players realize just how much they need and love one another.  During this "Enlightenment" period, discreetly mix Round 3 (above) together in cup.  When the pot is distracted, pour Round 3 in and quickly stir it together.  This is the glue that will bind them!

Once you have a nice simmering bubbly mixture of Christmas goodness (your house will smell like Santa farted in it), ladle the hot mixture carefully into 1/2 pint mason jars.  Stash the jars in the fridge.  Due largely to the vinegar, this Chutney will last a LONG time.  I've never worried about it much though, because it gets eaten... quickly.

To serve, just pour a cold jar of the Chutney over a small wheel of Brie, Camembert, or Cream cheese and spread on your favorite crackers.  It's fun to watch the expression of your guests as their brains grapple with the sweet vs. savory elements of it all!

They'll keep eating and wondering and savoring and grappling until it's gone....

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