Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Blog Imitates Life

We are rapidly coming up on one of my favorite holidays. Thanksgiving is, for me, centrally a sacramental meal. 

Despite varying levels of rookie nerves around what I've been asked (or worse - volunteered!) to cook for the meal, or puzzling how to multiply a recipe that feeds 4 comfortably into a quantity to satisfy 5 times that number, I always enjoy the idea of preparing food for family and friends.  

In my adult life I have experienced Thanksgiving meals in every convolution I'd ever imagined. Immediate family, extended family, "chosen family"; meals for two and meals including up to 30 others.  I've shown up with only my appetite, cooked the entire meal, prepared all but the turkey, and brought dishes to pot lucks.   

Some celebrations it is easier than others to remember not only what we are thankful for, but why we ought to stop and offer thanks.  There was one memorable Thanksgiving meal shared with my exhausted husband, then a surgical intern in the Air Force in San Antonio, Texas.  We celebrated that year in the nearly empty hospital cafeteria, seated across from a woman who had a swollen bandaged nose, and two black eyes.  Looking down at my meat, gravy and three ice cream scooped portions of sides, I realized with new intensity how lucky we were to be in there because my husband had work to do on other folks.  

Over the years our family has settled upon a preferred lineup for the holiday menu.  Experimentation is fabulous for some, but our merry little band features some significantly picky eaters. I learned early not to arbitrarily challenge my family's Thanksgiving expectations.  If I want to try something new, if possible I offer it in addition to the item it might replace, until we are comfortably assured of everybody's acceptance.   A new recipe would have to significantly improve upon a family favorite to warrant consideration for substitution. And I have learned the hard way "improve" is all in the eye - or the mouth - of the beholder.

One required recipe I can claim as my own is my version of Cranberry Relish.  Granted, my variation is only an inspired addition to the recipe on the bag, but I was the first person to think of it in my circle of friends and family, so I claim it as "mine".  I have yet to run across anybody else who has tried this at all, much less anybody who will claim to have been doing it for longer than I have.  

Ladies and gents - the very best whole berry relish you will ever wrap lips around consists of the recipe that comes on the bag along with - drum roll please - the addition of one large seeded, rough chopped jalapeño. I put 5 of the jalapeño seeds into mine which provides just the right amount of fire for the tenderest mouth amongst us.  The peppers vary some in heat from year to year but that formula has proven a fairly reliable path towards reproducible results.  

I add the chopped jalapeño along with the berries, and that's it.   I do like to mash the berries up a bit as they cook with the back of a spoon, although I don't strain the results.  

This sparkling combination of sweet and tart and hot (calling forward the title of this blog and of this post) elevates the sauce to a whole new level.  People who say they don't like cranberries have told me they like the sauce prepared this way. Try it this year in addition to your usual cranberry sauce, and see what you think.   

Who knows? Maybe you will have one more thing to be thankful for...

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