Back in the early days of our romance, when we had all the free time in the world and a burning desire to learn to cook, we helped out at a local cooking school prepping, cleaning, and serving for a wide range of classes. That led to our fifteen seconds of fame as a young, cute couple who cooked together...
We didn't get paid for our time--we were considered "volunteers"--but we walked out of each class with a stack of recipes and a confidence in the kitchen that we'd sorely lacked beforehand.
While almost all of the recipes we brought home have been filed away and never used because they were too much work or too time consuming in our increasingly busy lives, we come back to one of them year after year around Thanksgiving because it was so perfect.
This cranberry chutney took what we knew about cranberry side dishes--jiggly rounds of cranberry sauce with the rings of the can they came from still visible--and turned it completely upside down. It's a simple recipe that takes five minutes to prep (and about twenty to simmer), not much more than the time it takes you to open a can and work the cylinder of gel out, really. And it's delicious, versatile, and looks great on the table.
Of course, over time we've adapted this to our tastes. We've cut back on the sugar a bit, bumped up the ginger, and in a new twist this year, swapped in dry and funky hard cider for the sweet cider in the original. We had just enough Big Hill Ciderworks Farmhouse left over from a tasting to deliver a citrusy, sour note on top of the tart, sweet, spicy base.
Make this a couple days before Thanksgiving and put it in the fridge. It'll keep for a week at least. Use it as a tart and tasty side dish on Thanksgiving day, a condiment on Black Friday leftover sandwiches piled high with turkey and stuffing, or stirred into a bowl of oatmeal when you need to start eating healthy again after your Thanksgiving binge.
To make an impressive but crazy easy pre-meal appetizer, slice a round of brie in half horizontally, add a few scoops of the chutney on the bottom half, then replace the top. Wrap the whole thing in puff pastry, brush it with an egg wash, and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. When you pull it out of the oven, let it sit for a few before cutting in. If we didn't lead you astray, you'll have oozy cheese mixed in with that spicy, sweet/tart chutney.
Or make it even easier on yourself and drop a dollop of the chutney on your cheese board. It's awesome with everything from chevre to cheddar.
Cranberry & Cider Chutney
2/3 cup hard cider...something on the drier side, as there is ample sugar coming right up
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh ginger (peeled first, of course)
1 tart apple, diced
12 ounces fresh cranberries (that's the size you'll typically find in the grocery store)
Pinch of dried hot pepper flakes
Dump the cider, cider vinegar, and sugar into a pot. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the ginger, apple, cranberries, and hot pepper flakes. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The chutney will get thick and syrupy as the cranberries break down.
Cool slightly, then put in the fridge. The pectin from the fruit will turn into a gel, so while this won't look just like your canned cranberry sauce, it'll still hearken back to that familiar texture.