This post is written with many thanks to Heidi at 101 Cookbooks, for posting this recipe in the first place, and for her dedication to finding the just-right sugars for every step of the process. Better you than me, sister.
As with so many of my recipes, I found these little gems about a year ago and bookmarked them, only to forget about them. Then while I was scouring through my recipe-labeled emails to find an appetizer for Gourmet Friends, I discovered it again in an email I’d sent to myself. Thank you, Ghost of Christmas Past! These are a beautiful festive treat for a winter party, and very unique.
I’ve given only half the quantities of the original recipe here, because most people will only pop one or two each, for the novelty and intrigue. In general, people don’t go crazy over natural cranberries, and they’re sure to get some puckers from the kids, who think they look like candy. (Ha ha, suckers!) Rolling these berries perfectly is also incredibly time-consuming and laborious, and I think once you get to one cup, you won’t miss the second.
They really are pretty, though. I swear.
To start, you’ll measure out a cup of fresh cranberries, making sure to pick out any shriveled or otherwise funky berries. Soak these overnight in a simple syrup (Heidi recommends making it with raw sugar, which gives a really nice molasses flavor).
The next day, drain the berries. They should stay a little sticky and they’ll look really shiny and gorgemous. *ooooh, shiiiiiny*
While the berries are still wet, it’s time to roll them first in organic, unbleached sugar (a slightly bigger grain than your normal refined), and then in refined sugar. To set up a little station for yourself, you’ll need a bowl with your cranberries, a small bowl with organic unbleached sugar, a small bowl with regular refined sugar (and reserves of both), a slotted spoon, and the serving bowl for your finished cranberries. You’ll also want a comfy chair, ‘cuz this is gonna take a while.
To coat, drop a berry into the organic sugar, shake off excess by tapping a slotted spoon against the bowl, then repeat in the refined sugar.
Note: the sugar level in these bowls is too much. As you work through this process, some of the simple syrup will stay behind, creating lumps in your sugar. And that means lumps on your berries, which looks less like freshly fallen snow and more like the sludge the ice truck has pushed to the side of the road. You can see it starting a little in this picture, where I have attempted to roll entirely too many berries at once.
In the end, though, with a little patience, you’ll get this very lovely result. I found that leaving these out, uncovered, made the sugar crunchy while keeping the inside delightfully juicy. Storing them in a covered bowl will soften the sugar some, and it’s not as nice. Over a couple days, the sugar will also start to clump and congeal, creating a weird cranberry-blob monster. So it’s best to roll these the same day you plan to serve them.
Spicy-Sweet Roasted Nuts
This is a tried-and-true recipe I’ve made several times now, and it’s always a hit with a group of friends, or when I’m huddled away in my little work cubicle, storing up nuts for the winter. It’s also extremely easy to make.
You can use any combination of nuts for this, so long as they are raw. I usually buy raw nuts in bulk, but Trader Joe’s sells them as well, and for a decent price. My personal favorite mixture is cashews, almonds, pecans and walnuts. Sometimes I’ll use a few more cashews than almonds, as they seem to be the mildest and absorb flavor the best. And almonds are dry and they catch in my throat. *cough*
Begin by dry-toasting the nuts in a large pan over a medium flame. Be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, and stir often. Eventually you will notice brown or black spots begin to appear; this is how you know they’re done.
In a small saucepan, melt butter and maple syrup together, then mix in fresh chopped rosemary and cayenne pepper to taste. Immediately pour this mixture over the toasted nuts, stir well to coat, and spread the nuts over a foil-lined baking sheet for easy cleanup. Sprinkle the nuts with sea or kosher salt and bake in a 350-degree preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Voila – you have it, a great party dish or gift.
~ Happy Winter Solstice! ~
RECIPE – Sparkling Cranberries
For the simple syrup, raw cane sugar or real brown sugar lends a nice molasses flavor to the cranberries, but regular granulated sugar (or a blend of brown/white) will work.
1 cup cranberries, picked over
1 cup water
1 cup sugar (see head notes)
More sugar for coating: I do a mix of medium-grained organic sugar for the first coating, and then a second toss with regular granulated white sugar. You don’t want a huge grain for that first toss, just something larger than standard sugar, smaller than most turbinado sugars.
Place the cranberries in a medium glass bowl and set aside. Make a simple syrup by bringing the water and sugar just to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Let the syrup cool for a couple minutes and then pour it over the cranberries. If the syrup is too hot the cranberries will burst, so be careful. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, drain the cranberries and toss them with larger grained sugar until they are well coated. I only use a scoop of sugar at a time, and small batches of cranberries, so the sugar doesn’t get too damp. Place the coated cranberries on a baking sheet to dry for a few hours.
Do a second toss with the regular granulated sugar, this typically takes care of any sticky spots on the cranberries. Let dry another hour.
Makes 1 cup of sparkling cranberries.
RECIPE – Spicy Sweet Roasted Nuts
4 cups of raw nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more or less depending on your taste
2 teaspoons sea salt
In a large skillet, toast the nuts over medium heat, stirring occasionally so that they don’t burn. In a small saucepan, melt butter and maple syrup together. Once melted, add rosemary and cayenne. When the nuts are toasted (when the vast majority have darkened spots), pour the butter mixture over the nuts and toss to coat.
Spread the glazed nuts out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet (makes for far easier cleanup) and roast in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on your desired level of roast.
When you take the nuts out of the oven, sprinkle the salt over the top, so that it adheres to the still-sticky nuts. I like to use the flaky Maldon sea salt for these nuts, but in a pinch, kosher will also do just fine.