The best thing about being back in Ireland is Christmas in winter. Somehow – although my readers from the other side of the world may not agree! – cold long nights and short wet days make me feel Christmasy. It’s that whole feeling of getting indoors and battening down the hatches for the miserable weather. Perfect for Christmas preparations! And driving home for Christmas surely isn’t the same unless you arrive late, on the evening before Christmas Eve, to see the house lit up with all the lights on and there’s lots of tasty smells coming out of the kitchen.
And that brings up to the food. At home, all the preparation is done in a mad rush on Christmas Eve and then there’s only cooking on the day itself. My own special contribution to dinner – besides peeling acres of potatoes, chopping stacks of carrots, making two kinds of stuffing and mince pies, just a few bits and pieces! – is Cranberry Sauce. I was never a fan of the solid stuff that came in a jar but, years ago, I couldn’t resist trying out a recipe from Simply Delicious Christmas by Irish queen of cooking, Darina Allen. That was the year the whole family became converted and I’ve made it every year since then although I’ve strayed far from the original recipe over the years.
My cousin won’t be down home for Christmas this year and, when I was home a couple of weeks ago, I had intended on making her some sauce to take to dinner at her husband’s family house. Alas, cranberries hadn’t yet reached the shops so I figured that I had to forget that idea. But when I saw them in the supermarket this week I dived for a punnet. I was going out to have dinner (Nigella’s Stroganoff made with good Kilfinane beef!) with herself and her husband last night so I brought along the ingredients and, while chatting in the kitchen after dinner and sipping our hot ports, made two jars of Cranberry, Orange and Port Sauce. The orange – only juice this time as I forgot to add the rind – is a usual addition but, when I caught sight of the port bottle, I couldn’t resist adding a shot.
If you would like your Cranberry Sauce unadulterated, then just use 200ml water and leave out the orange juice/rind and port. This takes only a few minutes to make and, unlike trying to make Brussels Sprouts palatable, it is worth it.
In the timeless words of Clement Clarke Moore, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
Cranberry, Orange and Port Relish
Fresh or frozen cranberries – 300g
Orange – 1, zest and juice
Caster sugar – 100g
Port – 2 tablespoons
Rinse the cranberries and put them into a saucepan with the orange rind. Measure the orange juice and make it up to 175ml with water. Bring to a boil over a moderate heat then simmer for about 5 minutes, until the berries burst. Add the sugar and port. Stir until the sugar has melted, bring back to a simmer then pour into warmed jars or a sauce boat.
Makes: about 2x 250g jars or enough for decent helpings on Christmas dinner and to brighten up lots of leftovers.