Monday, November 7, 2011

Mystery Monday: The Girl Who Didn't Eat Swedish Meatballs Part II (Lingonberry/Cranberry Jam

Swedish meatballs are accompanied by two things: boiled potatoes and lingonberry jam. Seeing as lingonberries are not local to California, and if I wanted to make the trek to Ikea to try to "source" some I would probably just go ahead and spend the $2.99 to get the whole meal instead of spending hours trying to locate an ingredient within that vast, spiraling, monstrosity. (I learned my lesson the hard way when I tried to pick up a bottle of elderflower syrup. Don't do it!)

So, to make long story short (is that possible since I've already told most of the long story?), the tart little red lingonberries can be replaced by the similarly tart little red cranberries, which as all good Americans know are currently in season (as are turkeys for that matter, but more of that later).

Now, I have to admit something. I am a little obsessed with Thanksgiving recipes. I have a stack of back issues of November food magazines that I have collected, and I bring them out and re-read them annually. However, the one thing that I am immune to (other than the idea of oyster stuffing - how gross does that sound?) are all of the crazy cranberry sauce recipes. Chutney? No thanks. Relish? What does that even mean? Salsa? Are you kidding? What's wrong with you!?!? I just looked at Bon Appetite's Cranberry Sauce Slideshow, which suggests among other things, Cranberry Salsa with Cilantro and Chiles; Cranberry-orange chutney with Cumin, Fennel and Mustard Seeds; Chipotle Cranberry Sauce; Cranberry-Mustard Relish; Beet Chutney (wait, what? How is that Cranberry Sauce?); Cranberry Sauce with Red Wine, Pomegranate Molasses, and Mediterranean Herbs; Cranberry, Tangerine and Crystalized-Ginger Relish...Need I go on? You Get the idea. Fussy and complicated to the max.

Anyways, my point it this. My grandma's recipe, which as it happens, is exactly the same as the one printed on the back of the package of Ocean Spray Cranberries (I think maybe she helped them develop it?), is just a simple jam made of cranberries, sugar and water. It's easy, an impressive step-up from the canned stuff, and wonderfully straightforward. The world is complicated enough. Cranberry sauce should be simple. (Maybe I should re-title this post The Mystery of Why Anyone Would Complicate Cranberry Sauce Thereby Adding to the Stress of Thanksgiving Whilst Taking Away from its Deliciousness).
Which brings us back to the real subject of this post: the Lingonberry or Cranberry Jam from Falling Cloudberries which accompanies the recipe for Meatballs with Allspice and Sour Cream from last weeks Mystery Monday. This recipe, I hope, is the Swedish (or Finnish) equivalent of my grandmother's cranberry sauce recipe. It uses a few more ingredients, but they play supporting roles to the main point which the making of a tart, bright sauce to accompany the rich spiced meatballs and their creamy sauce. Lemon juice and zest adds an extra zing, while grated apple supplies body and natural pectin which helps thicken it. The end product, while different than what I am used to eating at Thanksgiving, was versatile enough to be spread onto cornbread muffins as well as roast chicken. This is a recipe that benefits from sticking to its main purpose, resulting in a cohesive and balanced meal. What more could you want from cranberry sauce?

Lingonberry or Cranberry Jam
Adapted from Falling Cloudberries

Makes about 1 cup

2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen lingonberries or cranberries
1/2 cup superfine sugar (I used regular granulated sugar)
Finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 small apple (peeled and cored)

Rinse the berries and pat them dry. Mix the cranberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a non-reactive bowl and let them macerate overnight storing a couple of times (I forgot this step and just let them sit for a couple of hours which didn't really do much, leading me to believe that if necessary this step could be skipped).

Coarsely grate the apple and put it into a small heavy bottomed pan along with the grated lemon zest. Strain all the juice from the berries (or just add the sugar and lemon juice), along with roughly half of the berries receiving the other half to add later. Add 1/2 a cup of water and simmer the mixture for 20-30 minutes, or until the apple is softened and the mixture is thick. Add the rest of the berries and cook for another 5-10 minutes until they are heated though (Keep in mind that cooking the berries for a little longer will take away some of their bite by both breaking them down and stewing them in sugar). Pour the mixture into sterilized jars and seal, or alternatively, if you want to use the jam quickly just store it in a clean container in the fridge.
Spoon generously alongside your Swedish Meatballs and boiled potatoes (but perhaps not your turkey, unless you want to be really wild).

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