Defrosting the Freezer – so Baked Cranberries
Wednesday August 14th 2013, 7:32 pm

baked cranberries with orange and cardamon

Yes it has been a while since I last posted, so long in fact that I have forgotten how. But that doesn’t mean I’ve been idle. For anyone who doesn’t know already, I do post regularly on facebook so do feel free to like my page and then you can follow what I am up to.

The other day it became imperative that I defrost the freezer. I don’t like my freezer particularly as it is a dumping ground for things I tend to forget about, all the while it is costing money to run. But it does offer a convenient and practical option now and again and I daresay for some foods it is the best way to preserve them. I fill the freezer up with stuff as it is effortless to do so but I prefer bottles on shelves to a forgotten freezer-full, out of sight out of mind. The other day I realised the freezer was defrosting of its own accord, demanding some attention, so I gave it a good clear out, defrosted it, washed it down with bicarb then switched it on all ready to start the process again. There were luckily few casualties, I took the opportunity to edit down the contents, but 2 bags of cranberries, put away last Christmas (or could it have been the year before!) and some redcurrants from last summer had started to thaw so needed using up.

With an abundance of freshly picked summer fruits in urgent need of preserving, these blasts from the past were something I could do without, but there was no way I wanted them to go to waste either. The redcurrants went into a traubleskucha redcurrant cake courtesy of nadel & gabel. The cake was a big success; a light sponge base with a layer of tart redcurrants topped with a macaroon lid that cracked and splintered as the fork went in. I’ll be making that one again and perhaps will add some vanilla or almond extract to the sponge next time too. So highly recommended and you may still find some currants for sale, my local supermarket has them right now.

So that left the cranberries. In the UK, fresh cranberries are only for sale for 2 minutes round Christmas time. Last year Sainsburys sold Kent grown cranberries but only in selected Kent stores. Otherwise they are always imported. I’m sure I’ve seen them all year round for sale at the farm shop down the road that sells frozen fruits loose from big tubs, that you can buy by weight by the scoopful. I haven’t had cranberries enough to really develop a love for them .. till now anyway.

For inspiration I decided to refer back to one of my all time favourite books, an American book I have mentioned before, Fancy Pantry by Helen Witty (1986) and her recipe for baked cranberries with orange and cardamon is a triumph. You can eat it like jam or a compote, it is somewhere between the two, and it is the easiest preserve you will ever make, requiring no bringing to setting point. The flavour is fresh and amazing and even though it is out of season, I am wolfing it down and planning the next batch. Eat it as an accompaniment to savoury dishes too, in the same style as a traditional cranberry sauce. It isn’t overly sweet, it’s just right. The sugar content is not high enough to make a preserve that will keep, so best store in the fridge, if it lasts that long, or do what I do and water process (can / bottle) it so it will keep on the shelf for a year or more.

baked cranberries with orange and cardamon


Makes approx 5 x 250g (half pint) jars

600g (1lb 5oz) cranberries
1 large seedless orange
500g (1lb 2oz) white sugar
1/8 tsp ground cardamon (seeds removed from pods and freshly ground)
60ml (4 Tbsp) water

Pre-heat the oven to 175C /350F /Mk4. Spread the cranberries in a ovenproof glass dish (I used 2 square Pyrex baking dishes). Remove the peel from the orange and pull away and discard the pith from inside and any surrounding the flesh. Chop the orange and peel roughly and blitz it in a blender or food processor to make a pulpy puree.

Pour the puree, sugar, cardamon and water over the cranberries and mix everything together. Cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Lower the temperature to 160C / 325F / Mk3, remove the foil and bake for a further 50-60 minutes, turning the mixture over with a spoon every 10-15 minutes. The cranberries will look slightly translucent and be surrounded by syrup.

Spoon the hot preserve into hot sterilised jars and seal, or alternatively process them in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from water bath and leave till cold before testing the seals.

Landlove magazine feature

I’ve got 6 pages in Landlove magazine this month. The magazine isn’t available online so until it is off the newstands, you will have to buy a copy to read it. I’m really pleased with the feature and I think it captures the spirit of what preserving is all about for me.

Sunday August 03rd 2008, 8:11 am

punnets full of summer fruits

Everyone has food stuffs or flavours that they aren’t particularly fond of. Sometimes we decide early on that we don’t like something when in actual fact we just haven’t eaten it prepared in the right way. That’s what I’m like with blackcurrants. I think my mind was made up after drinking Ribena in my youth and without ever having tasted them freshly picked. My neighbours blackcurrant bushes are heaving with fruit right now and noone seems interested in using it up, so not keen to see a crop go to waste I have decided to harvest the berries (I do have permission!) and find ways of using them that might change my mind.
As I am in jam-making mode I thought I’d start with a preserve and am really thrilled with the result. Blackcurrants are a great fruit to work with as they have a distinctive flavour with a tart kick, quite similar to damsons, which I really love. The recipe that follows is somewhere between a jelly and a jam; it is without the bits, as the skins and seeds are pureed out, but doesn’t need straining through a muslin bag as required to make clear jelly. The resulting jam has more body and texture than a jelly. Rather than the fruit being boiled to smitherines, the cooking time is minimal and so ends up absolutely bursting with flavour. This jam has a lower sugar content than usual which gives a lovely softish set and as the skin of the currants are removed there is no need to cook them first by boiling the fruit in water. It has just the right sharpness to make it ideal as the filling for a chocolate cake and is fab slathered on sourdough toast. This jam has turned me into a blackcurrant enthusiast, it’s that good.

1 Kg blackcurrants, leaves and stalks removed
800g granulated sugar
1 lemon

Choose ripe or slightly under ripe fruit. Rinse the fruit if you must but make sure to drain off the excess water by patting dry with kitchen towel. Place the blackcurrants, sugar and juice of the lemon in a preserving pan. Gradually bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar then remove from the heat. Pour into a glass or ceramic bowl and cover with greaseproof paper pushed down onto the surface of the fruity syrup. Leave in the refrigerator overnight. (I went away for a couple of days at this stage with no adverse effects!)
Put the fruit and syrup through a food mill fitted with a fine disk or push through a sieve held over the preserving pan to remove the skins and seeds. Bring the resulting puree to the boil, stirring occasionally, and cook at a fast boil until it reaches setting point (it only took me 5 minutes). Skim if required and pour into hot clean jars, filling right up to the top and seal, preferably with screw top lids. Cool the jars upside down.

A punnet of blackcurrants