Though Thanksgiving isn't here quite yet, I'm fairly certain that you're all tired of cranberries (and if you're anything like me, you've also hit your pumpkin saturation point). And I understand (truly, I do) that the last thing you need to see is one more cranberry recipe. Yet, I couldn't resist sharing this one. Because pickled cranberries are something special. They take the natural sweet-tart nature of this little red berry and amplify it.
Cooked for just a few minutes, the cranberries don't break down into a straight jelly, but instead retain some texture. They also manage to lend just enough pectin to the brine to help it gel a bit. And on the tongue, the combination of berries, sugar, vinegar and spices is wonderfully electric.
Like so many cranberry concoctions, this one is so, so good with turkey (better with dark meat than light in my opinion). It's also a marvel with ham. And should your family have a Thanksgiving chopped liver tradition, this little sweet and sour pickle goes a long way with a smear of that fatty pate (and if you don't have a chopped liver tradition, don't you think it's high time you start one?).
Happily, it's not just something you have to eat with meat. In a very real sense, this recipe for pickled cranberries is essentially a whole fruit shrub. That means it also makes an excellent starting place for a Thanksgiving cocktail. I like a spoonful with a glug of sparkling water and a splash of gin (because the recipe calls for juniper berries, the flavors marry nicely), but you could go any numbers of ways.
Before You Get Started
Find good cranberries. It might take a bit of pawing through the display, but dig for the bags that have as many whole, firm berries as you can find.
Give the brine a few minutes to simmer with the spice bundle before you add the cranberries. This allows the flavors to more fully infuse. Once you pour the berries in, the clock starts ticking.
Save the extra brine. It should be the cook's treat, paired with fizzy water or (if you have a bottle open) a bit of Prosecco.