To start:

Cranberry sauce is a perfect thing to make first for Thanksgiving. If you made it now, it will last at least 10 days in the fridge because of the sugar. A bag of cranberries costs $2.48, so if you have to throw the whole thing away, because it doesn’t turn out the way you want it, it is not going to kill you. Remember that. The only thing that can kill you here is if you forget you are cooking and leave the premises and the house burns down. If you undercook the turkey or you put too much stuffing in the cavity, you can feel like it is going to kill you, but even that is possible to recover from. So try to relax.

Cranberry sauce is also the perfect thing to practice getting crazy with, which on any front, either works or it doesn’t. It could give you great confidence in diving off the deep end and laughing at Tradition in the face, or you might just as easily find yourself holding on to Tradition like a baby holds his mother’s hand in the eerie dark of an amusement park after mixing candy apples and fried dough with ropy rollercoaster rides.

Every single year I decide I am going to reinvent the menu and I get lost in a sea of wild ideas about turkey and everything that goes along with it. The thing is, when this happens, I am usually looking at the ceiling; way before the sun or reason has woken up. By the time I am at the stove, if I am truly honest with myself, all I really want is butter. I am telling you, butter, cream, salt and pepper is all you need. So start with the cranberry sauce. Go crazy with the cranberry sauce, and that will either cure you or, you know–more power to you–set you sailing.

I decided I would add apples, fresh ginger, dried figs and lemon. I started with a cup of cranberries, because I am super cheap. If it wasn’t going to work, I wanted the other half of the bag to try again. I added everything at once with a few drops of water, and about a third of a cup of sugar. I simmered it for about 10 minutes. I immediately had to add more water. After tasting, I added a few tablespoons of sugar. Cranberries just need sugar to work; there is no getting around it.

What I liked:

the figs. they were a sweet surprise every time I hit one. I wasn’t convinced though, that the seeds of the figs worked. They got in the way a little. I thought about switching to dates. The flavor of the figs cried on my doorstep, so I in the end, I kept them.

the ginger. I added too much. I am that person that decides if I love something, give me all I can get. That is a mistake. I had already added the ginger, so to slow the train down I added a few more cranberries, and kept it cooking for a little longer to temper the flavor. That worked.

the lemon. I would add a strip of peel (minus the pith) next time as well.

What I didn’t like:

the apple. Funny, that. Apple and cranberry are such a natural combination, but the thing about apple is, it turns to mush when you cook it, taking away the glisten from the cranberry sauce, and muddying the distinctive flavor of the cranberry, instead of supporting it. I am going to try adding the apple raw, after the cranberry has cooked.

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