Divide and conquer

This year, we are approaching Thanksgiving with a divide and conquer strategy. I'm heading south today to Indiana to spend the holiday with my family and we're each bringing something. Other than assisting in my Dad's kitchen, I'm bringing the all important cranberry sauce and attempting my Grandmother's shrimp loaf. Before we go down the shrimp loaf path, let me just say that it is either loved or hated. One thing's for sure- I can't remember a Thanksgiving without the gelatin based shrimp loaf that my grandparents used to make and it is the secret ingredient to leftover turkey sandwiches. More of that to come over the weekend.

Let's start with the cranberry sauce. As I was running through the grocery store yesterday on the way to the fruits and vegetables, I spied cans of cranberry sauce whirring past me, conveniently located at the end of an aisle along with other Thanksgiving essentials. If canned sauce is part of your holiday meal, try this simple recipe to turn the beautiful ripe berries that farmers in Massachusetts harvest every year into an unforgettable side dish. My Aunt and Uncle, who live in Cape Cod, were lucky enough to go and see the harvest last month.

My family from England will be joining us for Christmas this year, which means more turkey. I've convinced my sister in-law, Helen, to try a turducken this year, but everything else will stay traditionally English, including my favorite- bread sauce. When I put the cranberries on the stove yesterday with the brandy and sugar, I made a double batch to freeze for our Christmas dinner. As soon as I tumbled the crimson fruits into the pan, it felt like the clock had started to tick on the festive season. My mind wandered to the time I'll be spending at the stove over the next six weeks preparing for that one special meal. I've been squirreling away holiday treats in the pantry and just waiting to bring out the decorations. If you're like me, I adore the holidays, but hate the out-of-season run up and wince when I see Christmas lights in windows before Thanksgiving.

Like so many of my holiday dishes, I refer to the Queen of Christmas, Nigella Lawson. Many of them work for Thanksgiving as well, but I have to admit I was dreading eating the same meal twice within the matter of a month. I'll definitely be mixing up my Christmas menu to vary it, but I'm equally excited about both holidays this year.

Cranberry Sauce

1 x 340g packet cranberries
1 cup of granulated sugar
3 tbsp cherry brandy (or other red fruit brandy you can find)
1/3 cup water

Put everything into a pan and turn the heat on high. Stir everything together and let it bubble and pop for about 10-15 minutes. Keep in mind, as Nigella quite rightly shares in her book, that once the berries have burst, it's best to take the pan off the heat, even if you feel there is slightly too much liquid. It will solidify quickly as it cools (like jam). Let it cool completely before you put it in a jar ready to serve. Taste to make sure it's not to tart, which it probably won't be. If it's too sweet, add a squeeze of lemon juice.

You'll need to fluff it up with a fork when you're transferring it to a serving dish.

If you're like me and make double, put the cooled sauce into a container and freeze it until December.

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