Today’s delicious dish – Cranberry Fruit Salad
It is traditional in my family that we have both fruit salad and cranberry sauce among the many side dishes at our holiday dinners. This year I decided to combine the concepts into a tasty cranberry fruit salad. It starts with fresh cranberries, and is more work than opening a can of cranberry sauce. But the work will have been worth it when you dive into this dish – it’s fruity and darkly sweet without being cloying, and the three additional fruits add interest to the flavor and to the texture.
Where I live, I’d struggle to find fresh cranberries before mid-October and after mid-January. It seems that many consider cranberries to be exclusively a holiday food. I suggest buying at least two bags when you can get them, and freezing them until you are ready to use. Then you can make this nice salad any time of the year. If you didn’t remember to thaw the cranberries before you start this recipe, don’t fret – use the frozen cranberries and increase the cooking time by 5 minutes.
After the cranberries cook with the liquid from the fruits, the mixture will need to cool for a while. Then comes the hard part. The mixture needs to be pressed through a fine mesh sieve, so that the cranberry skins and seeds can be separated and discarded. This is done by pouring the mixture into the sieve, and then using a spoon or silicone spatula to stir and press the pulp around in the sieve. It takes longer than you might think – just keep pressing and moving the pulp around. In this manner, you’ll get cranberry puree that is perfectly smooth. I realize that some people like the skins and seeds and are glad to eat them. But I find skins and seeds to be generally unpleasant, so I make the effort to get rid of them.
A colander (like what you would use to drain cooked pasta) will not be the correct tool for catching skins and seeds while allowing the puree to pass through. You need a fine mesh sieve or strainer. Mine has a diameter of a little more than 6”, and it is big enough for this recipe; you will need one with a capacity of at least 3 1/2 cups. If you don’t already have a fine mesh sieve, you might want to get one – it is a handy kitchen tool. You can use it to drain cooked foods, to sift dry ingredients, and to rinse foods that need a quick bath (I usually rinse rice before cooking, which would also be impossible using a regular colander).
After you separate and discard the mass of skins and seeds, you will have gotten about 2 cups of beautiful cranberry puree. At this stage, remove 1/3 cup of this puree to use in the next recipe (see Cranberry Glazed Pork Chops below). It can go in the refrigerator if you are going to make the next recipe within 4 or 5 days. Otherwise, freeze it.
In the next step, Jell-O is used to firm up the cranberry puree. Sometimes I can find cranberry-flavored Jell-O, which I prefer for this dish. But usually I can’t. I’ve learned that cherry-flavored Jell-O is nearly as good, and strawberry, raspberry, and orange are also complementary flavors. I would stay away from any (especially blue or green) that would alter the color of the salad– it might be too ugly to eat!
Although I have a fantasy of being able to put this fruit salad mixture in a fancy mold, refrigerate it overnight, and then unmold it for serving, that has not worked out for me. Maybe my Jell-O technique is flawed. I put this salad in an 11” x 7” baking dish. When it’s time to eat, I cut the salad into 8 pieces and use a thin metal spatula to scoop out the servings.
Cranberry Fruit Salad
- 15 ounce can mandarin oranges in light syrup
- 8 ounce can pineapple tidbits in juice
- 10 ounce jar maraschino cherries
- 12 ounce bag fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 ounce box cherry Jell-O
Drain mandarin oranges, pineapple tidbits, and maraschino cherries, reserving liquid.
Remove cranberries from bag and rinse gently.
Pour mandarin orange syrup, pineapple juice, and maraschino cherry syrup into a measuring cup. You should have about 1 3/4 cups of liquid. Add water, if necessary, to make that amount. In a saucepan, combine this liquid and the rinsed cranberries. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring often. Cranberries will pop open; if any do not, smash them. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
Press cooked mixture through a fine-mesh sieve; keep moving and pressing the mixture, then scraping the bottom side of the sieve if the strained puree clings to it. When less than 1/2 cup of skins and seeds are left in the sieve, you are done. Discard skins and seeds. You should get a little more than 2 cups of strained cranberry puree. Remove and set aside 1/3 cup of the strained puree for next recipe (Cranberry Glazed Pork Chops).
Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in a small pan on the stovetop. Stir in Jell-O and bring back up to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 2 minutes.
Gently whisk Jell-O mixture into strained cranberry puree to combine completely. Stir in drained fruit.
Pour mixture into a 7” x 11” baking dish or other 2-quart dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Makes 8 servings, each about 1/2 cup.
Nutritional information (per serving): 176 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 1 gram protein, 43 grams carbohydrate, 39 grams sugars, 0 grams fiber, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 60 milligrams sodium
Cost per serving: 88 cents
Preparation time: 1 1/2 hours
Chilling time: overnight
What happens next?
This salad will keep in the refrigerator for no more than 5 days. It should be covered to keep it from drying out. Don’t freeze this salad – when thawed, the gelatin will have lost its power to gel, and so the salad will probably be a watery mess.
I’ve eaten this salad as a leftover for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I’ve also had it with a big puff of whipped cream on top, which makes it seem like a dessert. It’s delicious any time of day, and goes with all kinds of foods.
Another day’s delicious dish – Cranberry Glazed Pork Chops
Here’s a quick and easy main dish that is delightful to eat and lovely to look at. Thin boneless pork chops are quickly seared in olive oil, then covered with a tasty and savory cranberry-based sauce and broiled. This is where that 1/3 cup of strained cranberry puree (from Cranberry Fruit Salad) comes in. If you had it frozen, it will need to be thawed. Sometimes the liquid will separate from the solids as it thaws; but all will be made right with a light whisking.
If you have not saved any strained cranberry puree, you can still make this recipe. Use 1/3 cup of jellied cranberry sauce instead; you may need to microwave it a bit to soften it up so it can mix easily with the other ingredients. Omit the maple syrup – canned cranberry sauce is already quite sweet.
Cranberry Glazed Pork Chops
- 1/3 cup strained cranberry puree (see Cranberry Fruit Salad recipe)
- 2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2Tablespoons olive oil
- 8 Boneless center cut thin pork chops – about 1 1/4 pounds total
Whisk together cranberry puree, maple syrup, and spices.
Heat olive oil on medium high heat in a skillet. In batches, sear pork chops on both sides, then place on a rimmed baking sheet. When all pork chops have been seared and are placed on baking sheet, lower heat on burner under skillet. Add cranberry mixture to hot pan. Stir and cook for 2 minutes, then spread sauce over pork chops (about 1 Tablespoon per pork chop).
Turn on oven to Broil (High).
Broil for 5 minutes. Allow meat to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutritional information (per serving): 343 calories, 18.5 grams fat, 5.5 grams saturated fat, 28 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrate, 13 grams sugars, 0 grams fiber, 84 milligrams cholesterol, 519 milligrams sodium
Cost per serving: $1.95
Preparation time: 30 minutes