Last weekend, in the middle of making ice (I’ll post the recipe sometime, I promise), I opened the freezer door to make sure there was room for my three freshly filled ice trays. As if reading my mind, about 90% of the freezer’s contents promptly slid out and crashed to the kitchen floor, as if to say “Here, Julie! Now there’s room!” I have very thoughtful and intuitive frozen goods. As I tried to cram them back in around the brimming ice cube trays (in an orderly fashion, of course), one stubborn bag of cranberries kept making its way back onto the floor. After several failed attempts at creative stacking and reconfiguring, I realized that being good at Tetris didn’t mean I could defy physics. Thoroughly humbled, I resigned myself to the fact that the only place these cursed cranberries could now fit was down my gullet.
As I leafed through the “C” section of my perfectly organized recipe binder for cranberry recipes…HAHAHA. I can’t even say that with a straight face. Let me try again: As I sifted through a foot-high, unalphabetized stack of dog-eared printouts, handwritten notes, and food magazine clippings for cranberry recipes, I found myself rejecting each of them for the same reason – too Thanksgiving-y. One could argue that since we ought to be thankful for each and every day, we could easily justify eating like it’s Thanksgiving every day, but I didn’t have enough fight left in me to make that argument after the freezer incident. I had pretty much decided to toss the whole bag, but as I opened the cabinet door to replace my sheaf of recipes, my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving fell out. As a last resort, I checked the index for “cranberry,” and sure enough, there were no fewer than 11 recipes to choose from. Before I could pick one, a bag of mustard seeds flew across the room and hit me in the face.
I’m just kidding about that part. But seriously, I am about 99% sure that I have a kitchen ghost who is really into cranberries. And canning.
I chose cranberry mustard simply because I had the ingredients lying around, and because it seemed like something that could be incorporated into other recipes. The fact that I could preserve it was even better, because it meant that I wouldn’t be stuck trying to finish some tired cranberry dish before it went bad. It also meant that I could give some away. After making it, I’m not sure how much I’ll actually end up parting with, because it’s so good I kind of want to keep it all for myself. It’s great on its own as a sharp, tart dip for pretzels, but it can also be tamed a bit for use as a veggie dip or cracker spread by mixing it with a bit of honey and some mayo or sour cream. The Ball book also informs me that it is “particularly delicious with ham and adds color or interest to meat dishes,” but since that’s out of my wheelhouse, you’ll have to report back to me. I’m also not sure if they mean you have to choose between color and interest, so let me know if you get the best of both worlds, because this was the first I’d heard of color and interest being mutually exclusive.
If you don’t want to can this for room temperature storage, you can pack it in jars and keep it in the fridge for a couple of months – but don’t be afraid of canning. It is far less intimidating than I ever thought it could be – and if I can do it, anyone can. Read up on water bath canning here - chances are you already have everything you need. And on top of the extraordinarily satisfying feeling you’ll get when you hear the series of “pop-pop-pops” indicating that your jars have sealed successfully, nothing beats knowing that you’ll have plenty of mustard to survive on when the zombie apocalypse comes.