Shaken Cranberry Mostarda
In developing a dish for NPR’s story about the Turkey-less Thanksgiving I discovered my new favorite cranberry sauce. Here, two cool old recipes come together: Scandinavian “shaken red currants,” and Italian fruit “mostarda.” It’s uncooked but vibrant, fruity but audaciously spicy, the ideal sidecar for the holiday dinner, no matter which roast you do. (I envisioned it to go with venison, but turkey will work beautifully.)
Shaken currants are really cool. I’ve been using this technique for lots of different berries: sour cherries, blackberries, you name it. You just combine berries (using chopped cranberries in this case) and sugar and a drop of brandy in a jar, give it a shake, turn it upside down once in a while, and within a day they berries have turned into shiny, glowing jewels. They’re raw, but taste like they’ve been transformed. Then, just to complicate things, I added the flavors of a classic mostarda: finely ground mustard seeds, whole mustard seeds, and a touch of oil. It’s spicy but not searing, possessed of the perfect amount of daring.
Shaken Cranberry Mostarda
1 cup sugar
1 lemon, washed and dried
12 ounces rinsed fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon brandy
1 cup prunes, diced
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons freshly finely ground mustard seeds
2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Make the mostarda at least 12 hours and up to 1 week ahead: Pour the sugar into a food processor and shave 5 wide strips of lemon zest (just the yellow peel, not the pith) over the top. Process until the lemon zest is reduced to bits, and pour the sugar into a bowl.
Add the cranberries to the processor and pulse until the cranberries are broken up but not pulverized; leave it coarse. In a 1-quart glass jar, combine the cranberries, lemon sugar, brandy, and prunes. Peel the pith and remaining skin from the lemon and dip your paring knife between the segments to free the lemon flesh. Chop the lemon flesh roughly and add to the jar. Shake the jar, turning it upside down to incorporate the sugar. In another hour, shake and turn the jar upside down again, repeating every few hours until no sugar remains and the cranberries glow bright fuschia.
After 8 hours, add the ground mustard seed, the whole mustard seeds, vinegar, and olive oil. If using that day, leave to macerate at room tempertaure. Stir to combine, and serve at room temperature (thinning to the correct consistency with water if desired). Refrigerate any leftovers for up to 2 weeks.