Thanksgiving may be over, but there are still plenty of cranberries on the stores. Which got me thinking: if it’s a fall/winter fruit, why am I not doing more with them? It’s simple–cranberries are a tricky fruit to work with and not as versatile as other berries. But… that doesn’t meant they don’t have their place on the winter menu.
Given their tartness, seeds and hard skins, cranberries really need to be either cooked down or dried. I once tried to macerate them (soaked in sugar for 12 hours to become soft) and that experiment failed miserably. I was left with completely intact cranberries and as far as I knew, nothing to do with them. Even searching around on my new favorite place for recipes (Pinterest) I was left with few options, mainly cranberry sauce and cranberry butter. But those options were at least a place to start.
Given that my slow cooker seems the perfect vehicle for making fruit butters (we’ve done apple, blueberry, and pumpkin) it was time to take advantage of this winter fruit and get cooking. So I surfed around and found a couple of different ideas, cleaned off my cranberries and got started. The result is both delicious and versatile.
Crock It! Cranberry Butter
2 bags of fresh cranberries
1 Meyer lemon cut into quarters
Rind from one orange
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup water
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey
Place all ingredients in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.
Remove lemon quarters, orange rind, and cinnamon stick.
Transfer soft, cooked cranberries to a food processor and process until mostly smooth, about 30 seconds.
Take two ladlefuls of the puréed cranberries and place them in a hand held sieve. Hold sieve over a medium pot and run a rubber spatula back and forth over the mixture. This will send the puréed cranberries into the pot without the seeds. Discard solids and repeat the process.
Once all of the cranberry purée has been strained, cook mixture on the stove for about 30-45 minutes over medium heat to thicken. In the end, it should be the consistency of ketchup.
Adjust the sweetness or spiciness to fit your taste, but keep in mind, fruit butters are sweeter when warm. Also keep in mind that it’s easier to add sugar than remove it, so adjust with care.
Notes from my experience:
The second part of the process (thickening on the stove) can be done in the slow cooker, but will take longer. The top just needs to be propped open so the steam can escape or it will not thicken. Given the amount of purée, it’s a relatively small amount for a 6-quart slow cooker, so unless yours is a mini or a 4-quart, thickening on the stove will be easier to control. You don’t want it to burn.
So far, this is a very versatile fruit butter! Because of the sweet and tart flavorings, I have had some fun with it. Add it to sautéed onions with red wine, orange juice, and some ground chipotle pepper and it’s delicious on pork tenderloin. Or add a small spoonful to a Triscuit topped with cream cheese. I think it would compliment a pear slice with goat cheese too, but I haven’t tried that yet. If you do and it works, leave us a comment!