While you are out shopping for your Thanksgiving dinner cranberries, pick up a couple extra packages so you can make a delicious jewel-toned cordial for gift-giving or holiday sipping.
I owe this recipe to a mentor of mine, Helen Witty, whose wonderful book, “Fancy Pantry,” taught me so much about putting up all sorts of elegant comestibles like the ones that are so easy to spend bucket-loads of money on: pates, chutneys, specialty pickles, jams and jellies, spiced and sugared fruits and nuts, and cordials.
Cordials are fun. I like to sip one after dessert, or dribble it over ice cream, or add to sparkling water or bubbly wine, or as a little something to add to cocktails that makes the difference between ordinary and awfully good. Right now, I am adding Allspice Dram (Taste Buds 2016) to hot sweet cider, my go-to for October and November preprandial drinks.
So here we have a cordial with a slightly orangey flavor added to tart-sweet brilliant cranberries, and a little spicy boost from cloves and allspice. Vodka is the alcohol vehicle for absorbing all the flavor and there’s sugar to sweeten.
About dried orange peel: Helen suggests dried tangerine peel, or, as an alternative, fresh orange zest. I used clementine peel. The terrific thing about tangerines and clementines is that their skin is so thin that scraping away the bitter white is a snap. Thin skinned juice oranges are harder and harder to find if you hope to dry the peel yourself (or make candied peel) though you can find dried peel in the spice section of the store.
Thirty growers in Maine produce cranberries, most of them in Washington County. If you plan the cordial as a gift, using local cranberries certainly makes the beverage special, even unique.
Aside from the few moments needed to assemble the ingredients, the process is pretty passive: let it sit and soak for a month, then strain and bottle. Even though I’ll include the directions now for straining and bottling, I’ll remind you here in a month that it is time to relocate your brew and get it ready for gift-giving.
Meanwhile, store the container of ingredients at room temperature and add to your calendar a weekly reminder to “shake the cranberry cordial.”
Yields about a quart and a half
3 1/2 to 4 cups, or one 12-ounce package, fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
Dried peel of one clementine or 1 ½ tablespoons of grated orange zest
4 whole cloves
4 whole allspice
1 quart (4 cups) plain vodka, or white rum
In a food processor, put half of the berries and half of the peel together with one cup of sugar. Chop coarsely by pulsing a few times, and put it into a large clean glass jar.
Repeat with the remaining berries, peel and sugar.
Break the cloves and allspice with a mortar and pestle or with the back of a knife on a cutting board. Add to the jar.
Pour in the vodka and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Cap the jar and set away at room temperature.
Shake the jar once a week.
After a month, line a sieve with damp cheesecloth over a bowl and pour the contents of the jar into it. Squeeze the cloth to collect every last drip.
Taste and if you desire more sweetness, add some simple syrup (equal quantities of sugar and water melted together).
Bottle up for use.
Looking for … Joyce Godsey sent along a fabulous illustration of a menu for Thanksgiving in 1893 offered at Camp Taylor in Moose River Valley, Maine. Lots of game, like caribou stew, larded grouse and loin of venison, as you might expect. Among the vegetables, however, in addition to potatoes, onions and corn, was listed Mungy Gungy. Joyce and I wonder what was in that dish? Does one of you have a memory or, even better, a recipe for Mungy Gungy?