Monday, November 18, 2013
Cranberry Thyme Butter
Cranberries somehow manage to be, paradoxically, both enchanting and mysterious, as well as incredibly unromantic.
On one hand, they are like something from a fairy tale, at least a fairy tale involving fruit. A fruit that is so gorgeous and ruby-red and jewel-like that it is, if you are the crafty sort of person, strung together to form garland.
And they grow in places called bogs, which sounds mystical and far-away. Most of us have encountered strawberries or blueberries or blackberries growing in the wild. One cannot say the same for a cranberry. I think. I could, perhaps, be projecting, taking my own life experiences and assuming others have had the same. Maybe everyone else lives near cranberries bogs.
But their elusiveness, while making the berry seem almost unreal, is the same quality that leads to a fruit that one must obtain from an emblazoned package instead of squirreling away into your basket at a farmer's market. And while I cannot help but be enamored by the joyful ruby spheres, I'm a bit disappointed when biting into one uncooked. It lures you in with its royal facade, then gives you nothing but sourness. Max can attest to this duplicity, as he could not help but rip open a package of cranberries as soon as we arrived home from the grocery store, and then was summarily greeted by the overwhelming note of sour. And not even a juicy note. Just a stiff bite of tart. Needless to say, he was not pleased.
Luckily, cooking them tames their tart nature and turns them into something luscious. Here I cooked them down with some sugar, honey, lemon juice and zest, and leaves of thyme. After the mixture cools, it is beaten with some unsalted butter to make a cranberry butter. A butter with some sweetness (but not cloying), with hints of thyme and lemon. A butter that takes on that ruby color from the cranberries. A butter that, I'd like to think, is both enchanting and romantic.
I've been spreading this butter on everything. Toast, muffins, buttermilk rolls, pumpkin rolls. It makes tons, so it is good for serving a crowd. For more cranberry recipes, see this video from Cooking Light - lots of great ideas for using them this holiday season!
12 ounce bag cranberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
generous pinch kosher salt
In a medium-sized pot, add cranberries, sugar, honey, water, lemon juice and zest, and thyme leaves. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The mixture will look like reduced, thick cranberry sauce. Take off heat and let cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the unsalted butter, salt, and the cranberry mixture until combined. Refrigerate.