Friends, this post is meant to stave off a very dire emergency. Diane, who writes a wonderful design blog called Frivolous Necessities, is in need of a cranberry recipe. But not just any cranberry recipe. She needs the cranberry chutney recipe I got her hooked on last Christmas. It just so happens that last Christmas when I was a family-less waif stuck in Idaho for the holidays Diane roasted a delightful organic turkey and invited me over to share it. I brought something that may have changed Diane's life for the better. Cranberry, Ginger, Lemon Chutney. This recipe is so good it cannot even be considered within the same species of that gelatinous blob of reddish stuff marketed as canned cranberry sauce. Nor is this recipe the type of recipe that you'd see on the Food Network, say a recipe that is predictable in its flavor profiles like pairing cranberry with orange zest. (It seems like every cranberry recipe on the Food Network this year has had orange.) My recipe requires a bit of thinking outside the box. For instance, one doesn't usually think of onion as the perfect partner for fresh cranberries. But this chutney has layers of flavor that ranging from tart, sweet, and spicy heat balanced with the perfect amount of acid from the lemon zest and juice. And ultimately, the reason one needs such a tart, spicy accompaniment to the standard turkey, dressing, and mash potatoes with gravy, is because it gives your palate a break from the creamy, starchy laden dishes. It wakes your tongue back up, refreshes it for the next bite. It is the equivalent of drinking an assertive complex Zindfindel with a slab of richly marbled prime rib.
This recipe also has a history with my family. For years, I worked as a server at Johnny's Cafe in Omaha every Thanksgiving. I would eat a full Thanksgiving meal at 10am and then serve families that same dinner non-stop until 5pm. When I'd get home, Kent would have round two of Thanksgiving ready--which always included cranberry chutney. The exact origins of this recipe are unknown. But, Kent's mom, Karen first introduced us to it. She even gave me a copy of the famed recipe at my wedding shower. I don't know of a truer sign that you've been accepted by your mother-in-law. Once you taste this, you'll see why. And, you'll never go back to the safe status quo of cranberry sauce again.
Cranberry, Ginger, Lemon Chutney
1 medium lemon
12 oz fresh cranberries
1/2 cup crystallized ginger*
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups sugar
1/2 t. dry mustard
1/2 t. salt
Grate yellow zest from lemon. Cut away and discard white pith. Halve lemon crosswise; pick out seeds. Cut into 1/4 inch dice.
In stainless steel or glass pan, combine all ingredients. Bring to boil stirring to help dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is thick and cranberries have burst, about 30 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and serve at room temperature.
*crystallized ginger can be found in the bulk aisle of large supermarkets, or check the holiday baking aisle--I found crystallized ginger next to the fruit cake fruit.
Admittedly, this recipe takes some hands-on time. There's a lot of knife work here, but it is worth every minute of it. I promise. Plus, it can be made ahead, and it is probably better if it is because the flavors meld. So, after I drive out to Luginbill Farms to pick up our grass-fed turkey, this chutney will be the first thing I make ahead. Enjoy.