Cranberry Aigre Doux

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Mr. Paul Virant, author of The Preservation Kitchen, claims that aigre-doux means sweet and sour. He also uses the term mostarda, and there are mostarda recipes in his book as well.

He states that both terms describe “preserves for cheese snobs and wine geeks.” Well that got my attention! They are supposedly not interchangeable terms, but both “frequently mix fruit with wine, vinegar, and spices.” Confusing? Yes, a little.

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His book was published in April of 2012. The first recipe that I made from the book that summer was Blueberry Aigre-Doux. It was simply a matter of putting fresh blueberries in canning jars, covering them with a spiced wine “syrup,” then canning the jars. When I was ready to sample the blueberry aigre-doux, I served it with a log of goat cheese and it was fabulous.

He also has recipes for vegetables aigre-doux. I have made and posted on butternut squash aigre-doux; here I used the squash on a salad. The squash was outstanding.

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Being that I made the blueberry aigre-doux a few months before I started my blog, there is no photographic evidence of it. But I knew I would be making the cranberry version.

Now I’m making it again. It’s that good.

When my daughter first tasted this cranberry aigre-doux a few years ago when she was visiting, she claimed that “it tastes like Christmas!” That is a perfect description.

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Cranberry Aigre-Doux

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons red table wine
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
2 vanilla beans, split in half with seeds scraped out
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
4 star anise
7 cups or so fresh cranberries

Rinse the cranberries, remove any bad ones, then let them dry on a clean dish towel.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring the wine, honey, vinegar, salt, and vanilla bean pod and seeds to a boil.



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I decided to add a cinnamon stick to the wine mixture, even though it’s not in the recipe.
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Scald 4 pint jars in a large pot of simmering water fitted with a rack – you will use this pot to process the jars. Right before filling, put the jars on the counter.

Add 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns and 1 star anise to each jar. Extract the vanilla bean haves from the wine-honey liquid and place one in each jar.

Pack in the cranberries, using about 6 ounces per jar. Meanwhile, soak the lids in a pan of hot water to soften the rubber seal.

Transfer the wine-honey liquid to a heat-proof pitcher and pour over the cranberries, leaving a 1/2″ space from the rim of the jar. Check the jars for air pockets, adding more liquid if necessary to fill in gaps. Wipe the rims with a clean towel, seal with the lids, then screw on the bands until snug but not tight.
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Place the jars in the pot with the rack and add enough water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil and process the jars for 15 minutes (start the timer when the water reaches a boil). Turn off the heat and leave the jars in the water for a few minutes. Remove the jars from the water and let cool completely.

The aigre-doux is quite liquid. Mr. Virant suggests that one “strain the liquid and set aside the cranberries. In a small pot over medium heat, reduce the liquid by half. Stir in the cranberries and serve warm.”

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He calls it an “ideal holiday condiment.”
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I served the cranberry aigre-doux over softened cream cheese.
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It is very good with goat cheese as well.
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Serve with croissant toasts, as I did, or water crackers.

Semifreddo

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Semi freddo means half frozen in Italian. It’s a pretty good description of this dessert, which stores in the freezer, but gets soft within a few minutes at room temperature. It’s really not like ice cream. It’s like a sabayon folded into whipped cream, but then slightly frozen. Is it worth it? Yes!!!

I’ve actually made this dessert three times before. Horrors. I know. I usually make something new when I have an excuse to make a dessert, like for company. But this semifreddo is so good that sometimes I need to make it just to be reminded how delicious it really is.

This version uses dried fruits and crystallized ginger, and is topped with a berry sauce for a pretty presentation. But I’ve also made a pumpkin version that was incredible. In fact, I should make that for Halloween… I could probably make one a month easily, using whatever is in season – think strawberry, cherry, cranberry, citrus, etc… Semifreddo of the month club!

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Anyway, this dessert is very easy although it does take time. Fortunately, it can be made the day before, and just taken out of the freezer before serving. If you’ve never made a semifreddo, it’s time you did!!! It’s delicious and elegant.

Semifreddo with dried fruits and crystallized ginger

2 3/4 cups heavy cream
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup white wine, I used a Riesling
2/3 cups white sugar
Zest of one large orange
1 cup mixed dried fruits, I used plums and cranberries
1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger

Whip the cream until firm peaks form. Then refrigerate until needed.
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Place plastic wrap going both directions in a large loaf pan, with plenty hanging over. My pan is 9″ long, but 6″ deep. And this recipe fills it up.
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Have the orange zest handy.
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And have the dried fruits and ginger handy as well.
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Place a large pot of water on the stove on simmer, large enough to create a bain marie for your mixing bowl.

Then place the egg yolks, wine, and sugar in your mixing bowl.

Beat the three ingredients until nice and smooth, then place the bowl over the simmering water.
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Continue beating.
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And beating.
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You will notice the mixture increase in volume, and also become lighter in color.

After about ten minutes of beating or so, depending on a few factors, it will thicken as well.

Test the mixture with a thermometer – it should reach 160 degrees Farenheit.

When this happens, remove the bowl from the water, but continue beating until it cools, which should taker 7 or 8 minutes, depending on a few factors. If you want, have a pan of icy water on hand to put the bowl in, like I did, to expedite the cooling of the sabayon.

After it has cooled off, beat in the orange zest.

When you are sure that the mixture isn’t warm anymore, begin folding the whipped cream into the sabayon.
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Gently but persistently fold in the remaining cream. You don’t want any streaks.

Then fold in the dried fruit and ginger.
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Place gently in the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.
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Immediately place in the freezer. After about one hour, cover the loaf pan with the overhanging plastic wrap. I also add another layer of plastic wrap to insure that the semifreddo doesn’t absorb any off flavors from the freezer.

The semifreddo can be made up to 3 days ahead, but I always make it a day ahead. To serve, I unwrap the semifreddo and turn it out onto a flat serving platter. Let it warm up for a few minutes, then slice it into 1/2″ slices. You can always use a knife that is held under running hot water to make the slices, then wipe the knife after each slice and repeat.

Top with a nice amount of chilled berry sauce and serve. Additional berries are optional.

note: All kinds of different additions can be used in a semifreddo, but I stick with smaller pieces of dried fruits. Larger, dried cherries might interfere with the slicing process. Also, nuts like pistachios and chopped macadamias would be fabulous as well. It’s a very forgiving dessert!

Cranberry Vodka

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I’ve made cranberry liqueur before – I mean, you have to for the holidays. It’s so pretty! But, I’ve never made a cranberry vodka before. And, I’ve never used cooked cranberries in a liqueur, either. So when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it.

The recipe belongs to Michael Chiarello, and I found it on www.foodnetwork.com. So here’s the recipe, although I’m going to type it up differently, because there’s a definitely mistake in it:

Cranberry Vodka

1 pound cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used the bean, split, with the seeds removed)
1 bottle of vodka (his recipe says 1 bottle of tonic!)

Place the cranberries, sugar and vanilla in a medium saucepan. Place pan over medium heat and stir. Simmer cranberry mixture until the berries burst, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Divide mixture in half and pour into large, clean mason jars. Pour vodka into the jars to cover the berries. Set aside and allow to sit for 1 week. After 1 week, strain out the cranberries and store cranberry vodka in a clean jar in the refrigerator.

To serve: Pour 2 ounces of vodka mixture over ice in a tall glass and top with tonic. Garnish with a slice of lime. I plan on using the cranberry vodka in a vodka tonic, or add cream to it for a creamy cranberry martini!

note: This vodka is very sweet. The next time I use this recipe, I’m going to cut the sugar in half.