A good friend left Saturday morning for a week out of town, but before she left, she brought me a gift of beautiful seedless red grapes and a bag of fresh cranberries. “Do Something with them,” she asked, expecting me to have a recipe at the ready. She had hoped to make a cranberry grape preserve for the coming holidays, but had run out of time.
So we very gratefully accepted her gift, and this morning I got down to the business of “doing something” with them.
I am an intuitive cook and rarely follow recipes. Which means, that just because I’ve made something we all like today, there is absolutely no guarantee I’ll ever make it again in quite the same way.
In other words, I wasn’t able to find any written record today of how I made last season’s cranberry preserves. And last year, I didn’t have beautiful grapes, anyway. But, it didn’t take long to find three or four good recipes with grapes and cranberries as the main ingredients online.
Reading others’ recipes is just a warm up for me, as I always switch them around, anyway. But, reading first gives me a little boost of confidence that I won’t waste whatever beautiful produce is at hand.
To make this morning’s project even more interesting, after my friend’s grapes were simmering in sugar water, I remembered a sack of muscadine grapes we had purchased from our favorite vegetable stand a few weeks ago. I had good intentions to cook them with some figs, but never made time to do it. Luckily, the muscadines were still good, and so got thrown into the pot with the rest. The result is a jewel colored, deeply delicious preserve which we will enjoy with our Thanksgiving dinner.
Two jars are set aside for my friends when they return home. We will enjoy some, a jar will go with us to my parents’ home for Thanksgiving if weather permits our trip, and a jar for another good friend who allows me to photograph her garden. Oh, the luxury of delicious jars of preserves to enjoy and to share with loved ones.
This is a very easy recipe, and you can certainly freeze what you don’t want to eat right away if you don’t want to can it in a hot water bath. I use a very simplified hot water bath method with recycled jam and olive jars. It works just fine if you aren’t planning on long term storage. And, I have no illusions that any of this batch will last past the new year. So, if you haven’t done anything with your cranberries yet, here is an interesting recipe to use as a starting point . Go ahead and personalize it to make it your own.
Cranberry Grape Preserves (yields 4-5 pints)
Ingredients: 1 bag of cranberries, about 6-8 c. red or black grapes, 2 navel oranges, thinly sliced
2 c. white sugar, ½-3/4 c. wine or fruit juice, ¼ c. water
¼ tsp. ground cloves, ¼ tsp. ground cardamom, ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
Wash and slice grapes in half, removing any visible seeds.
Combine water, 1 c. sugar, and grapes in a heavy pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the grapes soften and can be easily smashed with the back of a spoon. Remove any visible seeds.
Thinly slice 2 navel oranges, catching any juice. Remove any seeds. Use a paring knife or grater to zest the orange peel away from the pith on the two ends of the orange.
Wash and pick over the contents of one bag of cranberries, about a pound.
Once the grapes have cooked down somewhat and all seeds have been removed, add the second cup of sugar and the cranberries. The berries will begin to “pop” as they heat. As they pop, continue to crush the berries and grapes to further break them down.
Add the sliced orange, zested peel, and any reserved orange juice to the pot. Stir to combine. Once the fruit is bubbling once more, add a cup of wine and spices to taste.
(Note: natural pectin from the grape skins and the cranberries will thicken the juices as the fruit boils. Total cooking time from when the grapes begin to cook until canning should be 30-40 minutes. The longer you let it bubble, the thicker it will be. Notice the wine is added at the very end… If you choose to use fruit juice, add it earlier in the process)
While the fruit continues to bubble, boil clean jars and lids to prepare them for canning the preserves.
When the fruit is visibly thickened, about 10 minutes after adding the wine, ladle it into clean, hot jars and seal immediately with boiled lids. Follow standard directions for water processing to seal the jars. Remove from the boiling water bath and allow to cool completely before moving them so the preserves set up.
I’ve dressed up my recycled jars a little with paper bonnets. To make your own, cut a pretty paper napkin into quarters, and center it on the metal jar lid with a bit of tape or a spot of glue. Use ribbon or twine to tie the paper securely around the neck of the jar. Add a card or label with the contents and date made.
Our very best wishes to you for a delicious Thanksgiving this week!
All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013
- 10 Cranberry Recipes: Sauce, Pies, Cocktails, and More! (news.health.com)
- The Truth About Cranberries (fooducate.com)
- Cranberry Swirl Challah (spontaneoustomato.com)
- The Benefits Of Cranberries! (kouzounaskitchen.com)
- Spiced Cranberry Chutney (freeeatsfood.com)