It’s almost time for the annual stuff your face and have a food coma celebration. I’m not doing the turkey this year since I have to travel back to the farm near Willmar Minnesota from the Twin Cities, but I did volunteer to do all the sides, which I don’t mind doing.
Prepping ahead makes things so much easier, if you’ve never started prepping for Thanksgiving at least two days in advance, try it sometime. If I ask any chef I know that’s making dinner for their family, you’d better believe that the flawless execution and ease of cranking out food for the whole family rests on prepping in advance, it’s a part that professional restaurant training that will always linger, no matter if you’re in a kitchen or not.
One of the easiest things to make ahead is fresh cranberry sauce. Don’t get me wrong, the gelatinized ruby-red can loaf has a special place in my heart, and I’ll crush half of one by myself if left to my own devices. Fresh cranberry sauce though, is a more raw, natural way to present a hyper-seasonal ingredient. It functions so well with a caveman serving of turkey and all the fixings, the tartness balancing roasted meat and salty (hopefully butter-mounted) gravy, ensuring nobody’s palate gets bored.
At a couple of the events I did this year, one of the dependable eye openers has been fruit sauces flavored with cow parsnip seeds. The seeds have this funky, citrus from another dimension aspect to them. As well, they’re a jaw dropping point of conversation when I explain, again and again to guests that “poison parsnip” is a derogatory mis-nomer for a few beautiful and fascinating species of plants, some of them having been enjoyed as a food source In North America and Europe, for a very long time. Needless to say, fresh cranberry sauce flavored with the cow parsnip seeds is super fun, and one I’ve stashed away in the archives after I made it.
Fresh Cranberry Sauce with Cow Parsnip Seeds and Warm Spices
A couple notes on this. First, for the correct flavor it’s important to use some warm spices besides the cow parsnip seeds, their flavor is strong, but they taste better with some friends in the background, just don’t go crazy with the cinnamon or cardamom since they get super strong, fast.
A part of me almost felt bad pureeing all the nice cranberries I had too. The sauce will be good either way, but if you want to leave it chunky, make sure to grind all of the spices, especially the cow parsnip seeds very fine in a spice grinder since they’re fibrous and guests will be pulling them out of their teeth.
Yield: about 4 cups, plenty for a crowd
- 1.5 lbs fresh cranberries
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons dried cow parsnip seeds
- 3 peels of orange zest, peeled with a vegetable peeler
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 allspice berries
- 1 star anise
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 tablespoons water
Toast the spices *except the cow parsnip seeds* (they don’t like to be toasted) and reserve. Combine the remaining ingredients and bring the mixture to simmer in a small sauce pan, about 2-3 qt capacity. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook on medium low for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the cranberries are broken down and soft. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a highspeed blender, then puree until very smooth. If you want a perfectly smooth sauce, pass it through a chinois strainer afterwords. If the sauce became too thick on the stove, thin it with a tablespoon of warm water at a time in the blender to help it puree. Transfer the sauce to a container, place plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent the oxidization and forming of a skin, chill, label, date, and reserve until needed.