Awesome Sauce

November 23rd, 2016

Bring Your Cranberries to Life With Two Simple Additions

I want to wish everyone who still reads this blog a happy Thanksgiving. We have more to be thankful for than we understand.

I’ve been working on dinner for myself and my dad. A friend might show up if his family lets him down, but no one else has signed on. I had the impression someone else might show up, but I won’t know until tomorrow. I’ll put it this way: nothing has been confirmed. No, it’s not a relative.

I made cranberry sauce tonight, because it’s one of those things you can make the day before. I thought I should share what I did, because the result was so good it disturbed me. I can’t figure out why I have a crazy amount of talent for doing something I have no desire to do, but as long as it holds out, I may as well help other people to benefit from it. I no longer have any interest in cooking, but I still have moments of incomprehensible success.

Cranberries are sour, but they’re also bitter. The sourness is good, but the bitterness is a flaw. I don’t understand how things can be bitter and sweet at the same time. Seems like that means you have an acid and a base in the same material, and from my two semesters of very basic chemistry, I would expect acids and bases to react. Maybe someone who took organic chemistry can tell me what’s going on. Maybe bases aren’t the only bitter chemicals.

I was making the sauce tonight, and I realized I had nearly emptied a jar of pretty decent strawberry preserves earlier, while making a PBJ. I was trying to think of a way to round out the cranberry flavor. I decided to dump about a tablespoon of the preserves into the sauce. As I often do, I also added a shot of Grand Marnier and half a teaspoon of salt.

Let me digress. Be smarter than I am. Follow the cooling directions on the Ocean Spray bag. I finally tried it tonight. In the past, I’ve always been too lazy. Put the cooked sauce in a bowl, cover it, and let it cool all the way down to room temperature. Then stir it a little. This will prevent you from getting congealed bubbles in the chilled sauce.

Back to the ingredients. I omitted a shot of water from the recipe so the Grand Marnier wouldn’t loosen things up too much. When the sauce was at room temperature, I stirred the Grand Marnier in and put the bowl in the fridge to chill. Before it went in, I tried a small amount.

This stuff is incredible. The strawberry preserves kill the bitterness completely. They make cranberries taste more like berries and less like ornamental plants people might eat by mistake or out of desperation while trapped in a bog. I couldn’t believe how good it was. And I don’t really care for cranberry sauce that much.

I actually felt a little frustrated when I realized how good the sauce was, because I don’t care about cranberry sauce. It would be great to have a major talent for the piano or electronic design, but here I am making what may be the world’s best cranberry sauce, almost unintentionally and with no idea what I’m doing.

I guess you take the hand you’re dealt.

Anyway, I know you will like it, so if you haven’t made sauce yet, and you are about as much of a cranberry sauce fan as I am, give it a shot. For God’s sake, do not eat the canned stuff. I think it’s polyurethane.

I much prefer cranberry relish, but it’s a lot of work, and I’m only doing the minimum. I boned a turkey today and brined it, and I feel like that was mighty obliging of me, so I am not swinging for the bleachers on every dish.

I know the meal will be wondrous. The worst items will be very good, and the best will be fantastic. I feel like an Orthodox Jew who has a talent for hog-calling.

I will never be a professional chef. I will never open a restaurant. I don’t plan to go back to cooking complicated things for myself or anyone else. It’s bizarre that I continue to cook this well on those occasions when serious cooking can’t be avoided.

Bowling. Wouldn’t that be a great thing to excel at? It’s not a real sport, so you don’t have to be in shape or sweat in the sun, and you can do it well when you’re 70. You’re not like an actual athlete who might have a ten-year career before giving out. If you’re among the best, you can make very good money while eating pizza and drinking beer. It would be cool to have a rare talent for bowling. Even golf wouldn’t be too bad, although I hate being out in the sun, and I think spending time playing golf is more or less equivalent to writing God a note saying, “I have no appreciation for the gift of life.”

I hope you try the sauce. Remember, it’s the plain old recipe on the bag; 1 cup water (less one shot), one cup sugar, one bag berries. Then you add half a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of the best strawberry (could be raspberry) preserves you have, and a shot of Grand Marnier. Do not add the liquor until the sauce is cool. You want to taste a little alcohol.

Enjoy, and try not to founder.

4 Responses to “Awesome Sauce”

  1. Sharkman Says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, Steve, to you and your Dad.

  2. Stephen McAteer Says:

    If I remember, the compounds that make plants taste bitter are called alkaloids.

  3. Stephen McAteer Says:

    (They’re also used in some chemotherapy medicines I think. I learned about them during my RN training.)

  4. mike Says:

    Hope you and your Dad have a great day. I miss my parents.