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The Secret Ingredient (Cranberry): Cranberry Chutney with Orange and Crystallized Ginger

[Photographs: Kerry Saretsky]

I love cranberries. I love that their arrival in the produce section is the natural equivalent to the burgeoning supplies of Christmas stockings and Indian corn I suddenly see everywhere. And what I love most about them is how American they are. Though I have traveled far, and for a long time, I have never seen the fresh patriotic little berry anywhere but our continent. They are just everything Thanksgiving to me, and because it is my favorite holiday, cranberries hold an esteemed place in my heart.

In doing my cranberry research for November's cranberry series on The Secret Ingredient, I confirmed my suspicions that cranberries are distinctly American and Canadian. We actually started exporting them to Europe in the nineteenth century, and Native Americans were indeed using them both for food, and for medicine and dye. So it is probable (I will even venture likely with no expertise except enthusiasm!) that they were served at the first Thanksgiving. Which is why I always serve it at mine. (Even though some of my European relatives are a little skeptical of the ruby-hued bitter-sweet jam that I heap onto my plate and mash into my stuffing. More for me.)

While I find the cans of cranberry sauce to be iconic Americana, I can't help but say that making homemade cranberry sauce, or in this case cranberry chutney, takes less than fifteen minutes, and is so rewarding. This chutney is chunky, as chutneys are, and begins with a base of fresh cranberries. To that, I add orange zest and juice, both for sweetness, and because I believe oranges to be a holiday staple, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, which makes this recipe a multitasker.

What makes this chutney different, and I would venture special, is the addition of crystallized ginger, which adds a touch of heat (you can add more if you like, or up the ante with some grated fresh ginger). It's something exotic and something homey and familiar and pumpkin-pie all at once. The whole thing cooks in one pot in ten minutes, and can be made in advance. You can serve it with your roast turkey, with butter and warm corn bread, on turkey burgers, or even with turkey meatloaf. The whole thing takes next to no time or expense, and adds a touch of the homemade to a store-helped dinner, or a touch of the easy to a homemade meal.

About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the French in a Flash series for Serious Eats.

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