first published November 1992, for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for two reasons: I get to see a large part of my family, whom I love so much and don't get to see very often during the rest of the year due to distance and time constraints; and secondly, of all the year's celebrations, it is the traditional fare of Thanksgiving that I enjoy the most. I suspect that many people share this sentiment, and wouldn't be surprised to discover that the first big fight for most newlyweds occurs when they're faced with their first married Thanksgiving and have to decide which side of the family they'll spend it with.
My first married Thanksgiving presented problems of a different sort. My husband and I were far away from either home so I was to make Thanksgiving for the two of us. Unfortunately, I knew practically nothing about cooking.[Added note: and apparently not much more about baking!] People often assume that cookbook writers were born with a talent for cooking, or at the very least, grew up learning to cook at their mother's side. That was certainly not the case here. I was elated to discover that turkeys come in very small sizes, but, once home, I searched in vain for the giblets. I was anxious to find them because about the one dish I had perfected was a lump-free chicken-giblet gravy. After much peering and probing into the turkey's cavity I gave up the search as well as my plans to make giblet gravy.
Dessert was to be my first pumpkin pie. I had never eaten one and was, for some reason, convinced I wouldn't like it, but my New England husband adored it and I wanted to please and impress him. I did know how to make piecrust, as long as I started from a packaged mix so all I needed, or so I thought, was canned pumpkin.
Thanksgiving Day arrived and the house took on that glorious aroma of turkey roasting and piecrust baking. The turkey was a great success. The mystery of the missing giblets was revealed when I carved the bird and found the package of steamed giblets tucked into the neck cavity. We had a great laugh over that but I was the only one laughing when it came to the pumpkin pie. I took a taste and my mouth pursed in disgust. I proclaimed that I couldn't imagine how anyone in his right mind could eat pumpkin pie--it tasted like a barnyard smelled. To my surprise, my husband agreed and said that no one would find it good, that it was not, in fact, pumpkin pie at all. He wanted to know how I had made it. With canned pumpkin, I said. He asked what else I had added. Why nothing. What was I supposed to have added? He began to list spices like nutmeg and cinnamon and ingredients like brown sugar and egg and I began to feel like a complete idiot.
Nowadays, the holiday dinner is a lot easier. I know where to find the giblets and I can make several acceptable versions of pumpkin pie. Thanksgivings, however, are almost always at cousin Marion's and usually all I'm responsible for is the dessert. This year, however, I think I'll contribute something extra to the family feast: my Favorite Cranberry Sauce, to which I add an intense raspberry puree. It is so delicious that I can't imagine the Thanksgiving turkey without it.
CranRaspberry Sauce Makes: 5 cups
Raspberry Puree 1 12-ounce bag raspberries, frozen with no sugar added 1/4 cup + 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar Cranberry Sauce 2--12 ounce packages fresh cranberries (6-1/2 cups) 1 cup water 1-3/4 cups sugar 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest 3 tablespoons lemon juice (freshly squeezed) In a strainer suspended over a deep bowl thaw the raspberries completely. This will take several hours. (To speed thawing, place the berries in the strainer in an oven with a pilot light.) Press the berries to force out all the juice. There should be a scant 1/2 cup.
In a microwave* on high power, or a saucepan (preferably with a nonstick lining), boil the juice until it is reduced to 2 tablespoons. Pour it into a lightly oiled heatproof cup. Purée the raspberries and sieve them with a food mill fitted with the fine disc. Or use a fine strainer to remove all the seeds. You should have a scant 1/2 liquid cup of puree. Stir in the raspberry syrup and measure. You should have 9 tablespoons (4.5 fluid ounces). Add the 1/4 cup plus 1-1/2 teaspoon of sugar.** Stir until the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate.
Wash the cranberries and drain them thoroughly. In a medium saucepan, combine the water with the 1 3/4 cups sugar and bring it to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the cranberries and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Cool to room temperature before stirring in the raspberry puree.
Keeps: 1 month or more refrigerated, several months frozen.
Pointers for Success: For finely grated zest, use a zester (a small implement with tiny scraping holes), a vegetable peeler or fine grater to remove the yellow portion only. The white pith beneath is bitter. If using the zester or peeler, finish by chopping the zest with a sharp knife. If a lemon is heated (about 10 seconds in a microwave oven on high power) and rolled around while pressing on it lightly, it will release a significantly greater quantity of juice.
* If using a microwave, place the juice in an oiled 4-cup heatproof glass measure or bowl to allow bubbling and stir every 30 seconds. ** If you have less raspberry, decrease the sugar, using 1 tablespoon for each fluid ounce of raspberry puree.