Canned cranberry sauce….There is always someone in my family (O.K. maybe a few in my family) that is either afraid I have made some fresh homemade healthy version of cranberry sauce or that we will run out of the canned stuff! Regardless of the reason, members in my family feel the need to bring a can to the celebration. This results in leftover cans (even after sending some home with leftover turkey!) I admit I do have a soft spot for the jellied cranberry sauce.
I just don’t like the way it looks on my beautifully decorated Thanksgiving table, the all in one log with can marks (nice guide for slicing, tho!). It is shiny and squishy. To me, it looks like something fun to play with…so I do! Simply slice and stamp out some shapes using cookie cutters (I used mini ones). Dress a dish with cutouts and shapes! Easy elegance!
Now for that can I usually have leftover. You can use either the jellied or the whole berry canned cranberry sauce for this recipe. If you make your own cranberry sauce, hats off to you, it is reported only 26% of Americans do!! This recipe can also be made with chicken, just adjust cooking time.
Spiced Cranberry Pork and Apples: First, I like to make a dry rub for my pork chops-I’m using boneless pork loin chops. In a dish, combine: 1/2 tsp brown sugar, 1/2 tsp ground mustard, 1/4 tsp celery seed, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp cumin. Add some cayenne if you like it spicy. Rub into both sides of chops and let sit at room temperature 15 -30 minutes (or put in fridge covered for up to about 8 hours-if so, pull out 15-30 minutes prior to cooking).
Next, core and slice an apple. To prevent browning, put them in a champagne bath. You could also use apple juice or white wine. The soaking not only adds flavor but also makes the grilling quicker! I’m using Honeycrisp apples, they hold up well to grilling, but you can use your favorite.
Take your can of cranberry sauce and put it in a saucepan over low heat. To it, add juice of half an orange and 1 tsp of orange zest (or use some orange juice with pulp). Zest is just the colored orange portion of the skin, not the white, rotate orange often to avoid white pith. Don’t own a zester, no problem. You can gently use a vegetable peeler, fork, or side of grater. (Orange zest can also be used to jazz up the canned whole cranberry sauce to serve!) Next whisk in 1 tsp of Dijon mustard and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Next is the fun part, whisk in 1 TBSP maple bourbon. Don’t have maple bourbon? Just substitute maple syrup! Raise heat and bring to a boil, then turn to heat to low and simmer until reduced by half, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside.
Heat grill pan or skillet (I like to use grill pan for this recipe) to medium high heat and grill your apples to your liking, basting each side with the sauce, about 5 minutes total. Think spiced apples-YUM! For the pork chops, drizzle with olive oil and grill for approximately 2 minutes per side, then brush side with sauce and grill another 1 minute, flip, sauce, and grill another minute. This is just an estimate. Cooking time will vary on the thickness of the chops you select, but for thin boneless pork loin chops they cook in a flash, that’s why I like to use them. Keep in mind they will also continue to cook after you remove them and set aside to rest for a couple minutes. Be generous with the sauce. I obviously love to heap the sauce on the chops, the more the merrier I always say.
That’s it! Dinner is done. Hubby and I enjoy these chops and apples on a bed of wilted spinach and arugula. To wilt, simply drizzle some olive oil, white wine, or apple juice (or what your apples were soaking-champagne for mine) in a pan over medium heat, add cleaned dry spinach and arugula. Toss quickly over and over again with tongs until wilted about a minute! They are also delicious with wild rice.
Put your TO COOK IS TO CREATE thinking cap on: How could you change the spices? What other canned fruit could you use? What other liquor, cordial or juice could you use? For instance, another favorite is seasoning peaches with cloves and ginger and using brandy-great with grilled chicken and pears. When adjusting flavors and seasonings of the rub and sauce, think of it as getting dressed-what compliments what components!
FOOD FUN: You knew it was coming, some cranberry trivia. It just may come in handy if a diversion in conversation is needed at the table! According to Smithsonian.com and Ocean Spray: There are approximately 200 berries per can. Americans consume about 4 million pounds of cranberries a year and 20% during Thanksgiving week! Only 5% of the total crop is sold as fresh fruit. The canned version debuted in 1912 with Ocean Spray leading the way since 1930! Cranberries can bounce and float due to tiny pockets of air! Cranberry has gone by the name bitter berry and wonder berry (for its health reasons). The early German and Dutch settlers started calling it the “crane berry” because of the flower’s resemblance to the head and bill of a crane! Can you see it? The name obviously stuck!
Finally for my Beatles loving brother and a sure-fire way to fill at least the first hour of our day in a debate-it is reported that John Lennon once said in an interview that he said the words “cranberry sauce” at the end of the song Strawberry Fields Forever on the Anthology 2 album not “I buried Paul”. Let the fun begin!!