Every November, in preparation for Thanksgiving, I make a batch of cranberry conserve. The formula tends to change from year to year. Sometimes I make a conserve, like this one. Other times I mix the fresh cranberries with some marmalade and orange juice and call it done.
This time around I was aiming for something a little different. I wanted a thick and chunky conserve with not too much citrus flavor, a bit of spice, and sweet-tart balance. This one’s a winner on all those counts. It’s an adult cranberry sauce, with a bit of bite from cider vinegar, and a generous spice (and heat) from freshly ground pepper and minced candied ginger. Honey and brown sugar add sweetness. You can moderate the balance to your liking with more or less vinegar, and honey. But don’t skip the ginger and pepper. These two make this cranberry sauce special, and very friendly to savory foods. You will get enough conserve to fill four or five half-pint jars. I usually store the conserve in the refrigerator; it doesn’t last long in our house. But, I’m sure you could process it like a preserve and store it at room temperature for several months. Either way, you’ll find it a handy accompaniment to all your favorite holiday and winter meals.
Cranberry Conserve with Apple, Orange, and Ginger
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries , rinsed
- 1 large orange
- 1 Granny Smith , or other tart apple, peeled, cored, and cut into small dice
- 1/4 cup finely diced candied (crystallized) ginger
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper , 4 or 5 generous turns of the pepper mill
Check the cranberries for any soft or shriveled berries; discard these. Place the berries in a 4 quart heavy, non-reactive saucepan.
Strip the zest off the orange with a microplane, add to the pot of cranberries. Squeeze the juice from the orange into a glass measuring cup; add water to measure 1 cup. Add the juice/water mixture to the pot. Add the diced apple, the candied ginger, brown sugar, honey, cider vinegar, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and pepper.
Bring the mixture up to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the cranberries pop and the diced apple is tender. Skim off any foam that accumulates on the surface of the conserve. The mixture will look quite soupy at this point, but it thickens as it cools. Taste for seasoning and add a little more honey or vinegar to get the balance that suits your palate.
Allow the conserve to cool briefly, then portion it into glass preserving jars and cover tightly. Store in the refrigerator for several weeks, or process as you would jam or preserves for longer shelf storage.