When the holidays approach, two things I look forward to the most are Champagne and cranberries. I realize that if I really wanted to, I could have these anytime of the year. But the holidays seem to make it all the more special. I happen to consume both of these in abundance over the holiday season. They’re so tasty!
Cranberries are a seasonal fruit for this time of year. I also happen to love these little gems. Their color is by far my favorite color of any fruit out there. The hues of reds, pinks and burgundy are magnificent. How does nature create such wonderful things?? It’s amazing! Their flavor is wonderful as well. Adding that perfect bite of tartness to cakes, muffins, or pies. Added into savory dishes when dried, adds a bit of sweet tartness to brighten the flavors. I must also add that they are a healthy little berry too. Packed full of vitamin C, manganese and anthocyanin (the flavonoids that give the berries their gorgeous color). All good things people….all good things.
Then Champagne. Remember that balance thing? Have to mix some good with the bad. Although how “bad” can Champagne really be? I mean it’s wine and bubbles!! Nothing bad ever came of that. EVER. The bubbles are little trails of love you get to follow with your eyes as they climb their way to the top of the glass. They hit your palate and wake it up. Then they eventually make their way to your head, and well, you can draw your own conclusions for what effect that has on you. For me, the bubbles are a super highway to happiness. They scream party time and make me a little extra bubbly. I know. Don’t judge.
Although I love a great glass of Champagne, my knowledge of it was lacking. I wanted to find out primarily what separates Champagne from sparkling wine. Turns out nothing does. Its only the French being territorial over the Champagne region of France. Only sparkling wines made in that area have the right to be called Champagne. So there’s that. Spain jumped on that bandwagon as well and ordered all sparkling wines out of Spain be called Cava. Italy, its Prosecco. Although Prosecco is made slightly different than champagne. It’s all about the fermentation process…..I won’t go into those details here. I just want to drink it, not make it. There are different levels of sweetness: Extra Brut (the driest), Brut (the most common and popular), Extra Dry (not as dry as the first two, has more sweetness), and Demi-sec (the sweetest, to be sipped as a dessert wine).
Now, you combine the two. You could add a splash of cranberry juice to your mimosa. You can make a cocktail with Cranberry and a little wedge of lime. I like to place my cranberries whole in my glass and watch them float and parade around on the bubbles. It makes me so happy. Its a visual thing. You could sugar them!! Oh happy day!! Anyway, I love the visual affect of cranberries. And I like being happy. This accomplishes both things in one glass. It’s the simple things, honestly.
Speaking of simple. Homemade cranberry sauce. Have you made it? You throw some cranberries, sugar, orange juice, orange zest and water in a pot and boil it. Wow! So much flavor and texture.
You can add in an apple or stir in gelatin to make it jellied. I did both this year. I like the idea of a cute little jelly mold.
Apple-Orange Cranberry Sauce (William Sonoma)
2 cups water
1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, pippin or McIntosh
3 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Squeeze the juice from the orange and set aside. Remove and discard the membrane from inside the orange rind and cut the rind into small dice. In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the rind and water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.
Peel, core and quarter the apple. Cut into 1/2 inch dice and place in a saucepan. Sort the cranberries, discarding any soft ones. Add to the apples along with the orange juice, orange rind, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan partially. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, the apple is tender and the cranberries have burst. About 10-15 minutes.
Transfer the cranberry sauce to a heatproof bowl an let rest for 1 hour before serving. Or cover and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before serving.
I made this cranberry sauce three days in advance. Which is awesome if you have a big meal to plan. Anything that can be done ahead is so helpful. As I was in the throes of kitchen prep (literally 3 days of prep for one meal?!?) I realized I was starving and needed more protein. Turkey burger with cranberry sauce anyone? Yes. Please. It was so good and great way to test the sauce!
As a count, I went through three bottles of sparkling wine. Two pounds of cranberries. Several oranges and a lot of sugar. I shared! Kind of.
The Holidays are upon us. Find what you love about this season and make it a priority to have it in your life. Abundantly.