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Archive for Christmas

TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Cranberry Wreath…And A Mistletoe Ball

Christmas Wreath With Cranberries

Mistletoe Ball

Bowl Of Cranberries

Ocean Spray Cranberries Package

[1] Make a cranberry wreath for Thanksgiving or Christmas, or [2] a cranberry and mistletoe “kissing ball” for Christmas (photos 1, 2 and 4 courtesy Ocean Spray). [3] Were cranberries served at the first Thanksgiving? No one knows* (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

 

Sure, you can buy evergreen wreaths galore during the holiday season. But you can also have fun making your own, or as a gift for holiday hosts.

A fresh cranberry wreath or mistletoe ball will last approximately one week. Replace the cranberries when they begin to soften.

To extend the life of the cranberries, you can spray them with an even coating of shellac. Caution: For the safety of wildlife and birds, do not use shellac if you plan to hang wreath outdoors.

To avoid staining, do not place fresh cranberries directly on lightly-painted surfaces or linens.

CRANBERRY WREATH

Ingredients

For The Wreath

  • 1 12-inch evergreen wreath
  • 1 thin needle
  • 5 yards of strong cord or waxed dental floss, cut into five 36″ lengths
  • 1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • Hook for hanging
  • Optional: shellac
  •  
    For The Cranberry Ball

  • 1 five-inch Styrofoam® ball (or other size of preference)
  • Dark red acrylic craft paint (or other suitable for painting styrofoam)
  • 1-2 12-ounce bags fresh cranberries
  • 1 box metal pins with small flat heads, approx. 1″ long (approx 300 quantity)
  • 1 12-18″ length of 3/4″ wide red ribbon
  • 1 48″ length of 3/4″ wide red ribbon
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the wreath. Start with one 36″ length of thread and a thin needle. Knot one end of the thread and string the cranberries one at a time by piercing through the center with the needle. Secure the end of the thread with a large knot.

    2. REPEAT with the 4 remaining lengths of thread. To make stringing cranberries easier, use waxed dental floss or try waxing the needle and thread with beeswax.

    3. WRAP each strand around the wreath 3-4 times.

    4. MAKE the ball: Paint the Styrofoam ball with red paint and set aside to dry. Painting the Styrofoam ensures that any spaces between the cranberries will be less noticeable.

    5. ASSEMBLE: Lay the wide red ribbon over the top of the wreath with the ends hanging down into the middle. Pin each end of the ribbon to the ball so it hangs in the middle of the wreath. To complete, attach the 48″ ribbon at the top of the ball and tie a bow.
    ________________
    *There is no complete record of the food at the feast shared by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag in 1621. Two letters written near that time mention wheat, corn, barley, waterfowl, deer, fish and wild turkey. The Wampanoag ate cranberries and they may have brought some, but there is no direct evidence that they did so.

    HOLIDAY KISSING BALL

    Ingredients

  • 5” Styrofoam ball
  • Dark red acrylic craft paint (or other suitable for painting styrofoam)
  • 24-gauge beading wire
  • Hot glue gun/glue sticks OR wooden toothpicks
  • 1-2 12-ounce bags fresh cranberries
  • Holiday trim of choice: ribbon, mistletoe, holly, ivy, bells
  • Hook for hanging
  • Optional: shellac
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PAINT the ball with red craft paint. Set aside to dry.

    2. CUT an 18″ piece of wire and fold it in half. Push the folded wire all the way through the center of foam ball, leaving a 1” wire loop extending at bottom of ball and 3” of wire extending at top.

    3. ATTACH the cranberries to ball with the hot glue gun or toothpicks, covering the ball completely. Twist the wires at the top of the ball into a simple hook for hanging. Use ribbon to tie the mistletoe and other trim to the wire above and below the ball. Hang with a hook.

    4. INSERT a pin through each cranberry and press into the styrofoam, placing the berries as closely together as possible. Continue until all areas of the ball are covered with cranberries. TIP: Completing a section of berries close together is easier than continuing a single row all the way around the ball.

    ABOUT OCEAN SPRAY

    Cranberries are native to America, and first cultivated on Cape Cod around 1816.

    Ocean Spray was formed in 1930 by by lawyer and grower Marcus L. Urann and two other growers. Since then, the Ocean Spray cooperative has grown to more than 700 grower families all across North America.

    The cooperative’s first product was jellied cranberry sauce, followed by original Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail, hitting the shelves a few years later.

    Since 1995, Wisconsin has produced the largest crop of cranberries, currently about 57% of the U.S. total production. Massachusetts, originally the largest producer, fell to second that year, and currently produces another 23%-30% of the crop. The remaining U.S. cranberry crop comes mainly from New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.

    The U.S. is the largest producer of cranberries, followed by Canada, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Ukraine, Romania, Macedonia, Tunisia and Spain.

    Here’s more cranberry history and details of the different product introductions from Ocean Spray, and great details from the University Of Wisconsin (for example, where does white cranberry juice come from).

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Gingerbread Scone Mix

    November 21st is National Gingerbread Day…and also a reminder that it’s easy to make gingerbread scones with a $6.95 gourmet boxed mix from King Arthur Flour.

    We typically give small gifts to our Thanksgiving guests, and last year it was these scone mixes (this year it’s the Gingerbread Cake and Cookie Mix).

    The one-pound box makes 8 to 16 scones, depending on size. The mix is certified kosher by CRC.

    They’re whole grain, too, made with white whole wheat flour.

    The mix is certified kosher by CRC.

    The 1-pound box of mix makes 8 to 16 scones, depending on how you portion them.

    And you can use it to make gingerbread loaf, coffeecake, muffins, pancakes and shortcake.

    Get yours at KingArthurFlour.com.

    THE HISTORY OF GINGER

    Since ancient times, the Chinese and Indians used ginger root as medicine. Ginger originated in the tropical rain forests of Southeast Asia.

    By the first century, it had been introduced in the Mediterranean via India and became a popular spice in Rome. It fell from use with the fall of the Roman Empire fell, to return during medieval times as a spice for baked goods and other sweets.

    Ginger has been traded throughout history longer than most other spices. It was valued for its medicinal merits: it is a popular warming spice, a digestive aid, and sometimes used to treat flatulence and colic. Today, ginger is easily accessible in local grocery stores and throughout markets, but back in the 14th century it cost about the same amount as a live sheep or piece of livestock!

    Used as a medicine in medieval times, ginger became a popular holiday spice (it was too pricey to use year-round), most famously in gingerbread cookies.

    In 11th century northern European countries, it was used to flavor buttermilk drinks and over the next two centuries became used in cooking meats and in ginger pastes.

    During the 13th and 14th centuries, Arabs traders voyaging to Africa and Zanzibar planted the rhizomes, spreading the cultivation of the plant.

    Many ginger-flavored baked goods have evolved since then, from muffins to cakes. Today, we offer this recipe from King Arthur Flour for gingerbread scones: perfect weekend breakfast and brunch fare throughout the holiday season.

    THE HISTORY OF SCONES

    You may have heard two different pronunciations for “scone.” The word is pronounced “skahn” in Scotland and Northern England (rhymes with gone) and “skoan” in the south of England (rhymes with own), the pronunciation adopted by the U.S. and Canada.

    Which is the authentic one? They both are!

    Scones are traditionally connected with Scotland, Ireland and England, but exactly who deserves the honor of invention, no one knows for sure.

    Scones may well have originated in Scotland. The first known print reference, in 1513, is from a Scottish poet. However, in earlier eras, when communications were more limited, the creation of an actual item can have predated the first appearance of printed references by many years.

    Centuries ago, there weren’t newspapers that reported on the minutiae of life the way modern news sources do. There were no food columns in the local papers announcing that “McTavish Bakery has created a new griddle-fried oatcake called a scone—now available at 3 Sheepshead Lane.”

    In fact, there were few newspapers. Much of the population was not literate. So culinary historians rely on cookbooks and mentions in literature and other printed records. Given the perishability of paper, it is logical that many first-printed mentions of foods and other items may not have survived.

    What About The Name?

    One claim, probably not the best, says that scones are named for the Stone of Destiny at the Abbey Of Scone, a town upriver from Perth.

     

    Gingerbread Scones

    Gingerbread Scones

    Gingerbread Scone Mix

    Ginger Root

    Scone Pan

    [1] Triangle scones with icing. [2] Round scones with sparkling sugar. [3] Scones, pancakes, muffins and more come from one box of mix (all photos courtesy King Arthur Flour). [4] Ginger root (photo by Jan Schöne | SXC). [5] Long before baking pans were invented, scone dough was shaped into a round, cooked on a baking stone and cut into wedges. Modern bakers can use scone pans like this one from King Arthur Flour/

     
    It is a stone bench upon which Scottish kings once sat when they were crowned. The original was long ago removed to Westminster Abbey, and a replica stone stands in its place.

    Others say that the word derives from the Gaelic “sgonn” (rhymes with gone), a shapeless mass or large mouthful; the Dutch “schoonbrot,” fine white bread; and the closely-related German “sconbrot,” fine or beautiful bread. The Oxford English Dictionary favors the latter two.

    What About The Shape?

    Scones are related to the ancient Welsh tradition of cooking small round yeast cakes (leavened breads) on bakestones, and later on griddles. Long before the advent of baking pans, the dough—originally made with oats—was hand-shaped into a clarge round, scored into four or six wedges (triangles) and griddle-baked over an open fire.

    With the advent of stovetop and oven baking, the round of dough was cut into wedges and the scones were baked individually.

    Today’s scones are quick breads, similar to American biscuits. They are traditionally made with wheat flour, sugar, baking powder or baking soda, butter, milk and eggs, and baked in the oven—both in the traditional wedge form and in round, square and diamond shapes. This recipe produces a hard, dry texture.

    Traditional English scones may include raisins or currants, but are often plain, relying on jam, preserves, lemon curd or honey for added flavor—perhaps with a touch of clotted cream.

    Fancy scones—with dried fruit such as cranberries and dates, nuts, orange rind, chocolate morsels and other flavorings—are best enjoyed without butter and jam.

      

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    RECIPE: Beet Marmalade

    Talk about memorable fall foods: This beet marmalade recipe from our colleague Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog is an eye-opener.

    With its beautiful color and rich flavor, it’s a condiment that goes well:

  • As a spread with bread or crackers
  • On a cream cheese brick or goat cheese log
  • With grilled and roasted meats and poultry
  • Mixed into a dip with yogurt or sour cream
  •  
    The flavor is earthy yet sweet and zesty, with layers of flavor from the caramelized onions, orange zest and maple syrup. It may well convert beet haters to beet lovers.

    If you like to make food gifts, add this one to your repertoire.

    While the recipe specifies red beets for a ruby-color marmalade—a color that’s ideal for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day—you can also make it with orange beets as a change of pace.

    You can make canapés, or put out the ingredients and let people assemble their own.
     
    RECIPE: BEET MARMALADE

    Ingredients For About 2 Cups

  • 4 medium red beets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 1 large orange, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons 100% Grade B maple syrup*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  
    For Serving

  • Crackers or crostini (toasted baguette slices)
  • Goat cheese log, sliced in fairly thin (i.e. not thick) circles
  • Boston lettuce or baby greens
  • ________________
    *Grade B is the darkest and most flavorful maple syrup. Here are the four grades of maple syrup. You can substitute what you have, as long as it’s 100% real maple syrup.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Wrap the beets completely in aluminum foil and roast for about an hour, or until fork tender. Let cool before peeling. The skins should just rub right off with a bit of pressure.

    Meanwhile…

     

    Beet Marmalade & Goat Cheese Recipe

    Fresh Red Beets

    Orange Beets

    [1] Beet marmalade on a cracker with goat cheese (photo by Hannah Kaminsky). [2] Red and [3] orange beets (photos courtesy Good Eggs | SF).

     
    2. HEAT the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat and add the sliced onion. Cook gently, stirring frequently for 30 to 40 minutes, until deeply caramelized and almost silky in texture. Add the orange juice halfway through, and reduce the heat if necessary to prevent burning.

    3. ROUGHLY CHOP the cooked beets and place them in a food processor along with the caramelized onions. Add the orange juice and zest, maple syrup and and salt. Lightly pulse all of the ingredients together until broken down and thoroughly combined but still quite chunky.

    4. SERVE warm or chilled.
     
    WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JAM, PRESERVES & MARMALADE?

    Check out our “spread sheet”: a glossary of the different types of bread spreads and fruit condiments.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Honor The Cranberry With Cranberry Drinks

    Cranberries are a group of low, creeping evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines, that grow in acidic bogs in the cooler regions of the U.S. and Canada.

    The plants belong to the heather family, Ericaceae, along with the bilberry, blueberry, huckleberry, azalea and other rhododendrons.

    NAMING THE BERRY

    Native American tribes from New England Pequod and Wampanoag to the Leni-Lenape of New Jersey to the Algonquins of Wisconsin variously called them sassamanesh (very sour berry), ibimi (bitter berry) and atoqua in their local tongues.

    The English name derives from kranebere, German for crane berry, so called by early Dutch and German settlers in New England who saw the flower, stem, calyx and petals as resembling the neck, head and bill of a crane.

  • Some New Englanders called them bearberries, as bears were fond of feeding on them.
  • Northeastern Canadians called them mossberries.
  • In the U.K., it’s the fenberry, since the plants grow in a fen (a marsh).
  •  
    CRANBERRY HISTORY

    The Wampanoag People of southeastern Massachusetts had been harvesting wild cranberries for 12,000 years by the time the Pilgrims arrived. The Leni-Lenape of New Jersey and other tribes in the East also were blessed with cranberry bogs.

    Native Americans used cranberries for grits and pemmican—deer meat, mashed cranberries and fat, pressed and dried as a convenience food for travel. Cranberries mashed with cornmeal were baked it into bread.

    While maple sugar and honey were used to sweeten the sour berry, some souls with a palate for the super-tart even ate them fresh.

    Non-food uses included dye, fever-reducers, wound poultices and seasickness remedy.
     
    Cultivating The Cranberry

    The first cultivation of cranberries took place in Dennis, on Cape Cod, around 1816. After that, landowners eagerly converted their peat bogs, swamps and wetlands into cranberry bogs.

    Farmers developed a process called wet harvesting: flooding the bog with water so the cranberries floated to the surface, where they are collected.

    Cranberries found their way across the northern states to the Pacific Northwest, and were first shipped to Europe in the 1820s. From England, they were brought to the cold-appropriate countries of Scotland, Russia and Scandinavia. They’re now grown commercially in Chile as well.

    Today, U.S. Farmers harvest approximately 40,000 acres of cranberries each year (source).

    The fruit is turned into jam, juice, sauce and sweetened dried cranberries, with the remainder sold fresh to consumers for cooking and baking.
     
    CRANBERRY TRIVIA

    A fresh cranberry will bounce, due to the pocket of air inside (photo #3). That’s also why they float.

    The cranberry is one of only three fruits native to North America that were not known in Europe*. The others: the blueberry and the grape.

       

    Cranberry Flower

    Cranberry Bush

    Cranberry Inside

    Fresh <br />Cranberries” width=”230″ height=”230″ class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-87513″ /></p>
<p><font size=[1] The cranberry flower (photo courtesy University of Wisconsin. [2] Cranberries on the branch (photo courtesy University of Minnesota). [3] The air pockets in cranberries enable them to bounce and float (photo courtesy Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association). [4] Fresh cranberries (photo courtesy Ocean Spray).

     

    Mulled Cranberr & Tequila Drink

    Cranberry Punch

    [1] Cranberry Toddy (photo courtesy DeLeon Tequila). [2] Cranberry punch (photo courtesy Ocean Spray).

     

    DRINKING CRANBERRIES

    In Colonial days, a drink known as the Hot Toddy was created as a way to cure ailments (or at least, that was the excuse given).

    Made with rum from the Caribbean, it was also called Hot Buttered Rum: rum, hot water, spices and a pat of butter.

    Today, cranberry juice is drunk as:

  • Cocktails: Cape Codder, Cosmopolitan, Crantini, Toddy and Sea Breeze, among others
  • Juice Drinks
  • Mocktails
  • Smoothies
  •  
    You can create your own drink, mixing cranberry juice with lemon, vanilla, seasonal spices and seasonal fruits.

    We adapted this cocktail recipe from one sent to us by DeLeón Tequila.
     
    RECIPE #1: CRANBERRY TODDY

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1½ ounces white/silver tequila
  • 6 ounces cranberry brew
  •  
    For The Cranberry Brew

  • 1 part fresh unsweetened cranberry juice
  • ¾ part fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ part simple syrup
  • Cinnamon, clove and nutmeg to taste
  • Garnish: orange slice (optionally studded with cloves)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SIMMER together the cranberry brew ingredients. Combine with tequila in glass mug.

    2. GARNISH with the orange slice.
     
    RECIPE #2: CRANBERRY PUNCH WITH OR WITHOUT SPIRITS

    How can you resist this holiday punch, with a cranberry wreath in the center?

    The wreath is actually an ice mold to chill the punch, filled with fresh cranberries and leafy herbs.

    The recipe, from Ocean Spray, is for an alcohol-free punch; but you can add spirits to taste.

    Ingredients For About 15 Six-Ounce Servings

  • 1 64-ounce bottle Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups lemon-lime soda or club soda
  • Optional: spirit of choice (we used gin and cranberry liqueur)
  • Garnish: ice ring with cranberries (substitute orange and lime slices)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the ice mold. Fill a ring mold with cranberries and “leaves” (herbs or other leaves) and water, and place in the freezer.

    2. COMBINE the cranberry juice cocktail, orange juice and optional spirits in a large punch bowl. Gently stir in soda just before serving. Garnish and serve.

    TIP: To keep the punch cold, store the juice mix, soda and optional spirits in the fridge until ready to serve. We used two large pitchers, which fit easily into the fridge.

    ____________
    *Strawberries and raspberries were also known to Europeans; and many other fruits, such as the pawpaw and the saskatoon, are native to North America, but are not commercially important.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Holiday Martini With A Side Of Olives

    If you’re not the type to sip seasonal cocktails with apple, cinnamon, cranberry or pumpkin flavors, here’s a tip to seasonalize that American classic, the Martini*.

    Recently we read an interview with a fashionable mixologist. Asked, among other things, of his pet peeves, he said, “I sell cocktails, I don’t sell garnishes. Everyone who orders a Martini keeps asking for more olives. We should make ‘dish of olives’ an bar menu item.”

    Voilà, our tip of the day: Serve Martinis with a side dish of olives—ideally, a vibrant mix of different colors and shapes.

    We adapted Sable & Rosenfeld’s Blue Martini, garnished with its blue-cheese-stuffed olives (photo #1), with red or reddish† olives, for a red-and-green holiday theme.

    There is one really red olive, and other options in the purplish range.

  • Red† Cerignola olive: from Italy, a jumbo olive with mild, buttery flesh.
  • Gaeta olive from Italy, popular in recipes
  • Kalamata olive from Greece, a meaty olive
  • Niçoise olive from France, pleasantly bitter with nutty undertones
  •  
    Other purplish varieties you may encounter are the Alfonso, Amfissa, Nyon. But essentially: Head to the nearest olive bar and buy the reddest olives.

    COCKTAIL RECIPE: HOLIDAY MARTINI

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2½ ounces gin or vodka
  • ½ ounce dry vermouth
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 3 regular-size olives or 1 Red Cerignola olive
  • Ice
  •  
    Plus

  • A small dish of olives in mixed colors and sizes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PRE-CHILL the glass.

    2. PREPARE the garnish. Strip the leaves from bottom 2 inches of the rosemary sprig and skewer three small olives onto it, or one large Red Cerignola olive.

    TIP: Some kitchen scissors have a leaf stripper in the center for herbs. We use this one from Esschert.

    2. FILL a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Add the alcohol and ice; shake and strain into the glass.

    3. GARNISH and serve with a side of olives.

    If your guests don’t polish off all the olives with their cocktails, you can toss them into the salad or serve them with the cheese plate!
     
    _________________________
    *Check out the history of the Martini.

    †The color of an olive is an indication of its ripeness. Green olives ripen and become black olives in shades from black to purple-black and brown-black. As the olive ripens, it produces colors in-between: light brown, purple and reddish. In general, the darker the olive, the riper it was when picked. As they mature, some varieties may be red for a day or two. But what nature doesn’t provide, man will: Red Cerignola olives are actually dyed bright red with an FDA-approved colorant (red #3) and a patented process to provide festive color. La Bella di Cerignola is the formal name for the olives grown in the area of the town of Cerignola in Puglia, Italy.

     

    Olive Martini

    Mixed Olives

    Red & Green Cerignola Olives

    Esschert Herb Scissors

    Sable & Rosenfeld). [2] What Martini drinkers want: a side dish of olives (photo courtesy Pompeian | Facebook). [3] The reddest olive available is the jumbo Red Cerignola, shown with the Green Cerignola (photo courtesy DeLallo). [4] Strip leaves of of herb stems using the center part of this Esschert herb scissors.

     

      

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