Tracy Lee Karner

Cranberries 2 ways and for fools

Tracy Lee Karner
A little cranberry relish, a little freshly whipped cream…. a fool.

I’m not talking to fools; I’m talking about them. Fools are those delightfully simple and comforting fruit & cream desserts, cleverly named by the English. For reasons I know nothing about, they come up with fanciful monikers for what they eat at dinner.  Sausages and potatoes (Bangers and Mash), soup (Cock-a-leekie) and desserts (trifles and fools) .
The recipe for fools is simple, puree some fruit (I especially like strawberry or mango) and sweeten to taste; whip some cream and sweeten to taste, carefully stir the whipped cream together with the fruit (about 2/3 cream to 1/3 fruit, by volume).
Pretty up a fool for a dinner party by serving in stemmed glassware with long-handled spoons (the kind used to stir iced tea). You can layer the whipped cream and fruit parfait-style if you want. If you sprinkled some crumbles of pound cake between layers, you’ll closely approximate a trifle). Let your inner Brit be inspired and be merry.
At holiday time, cranberry fools are my easy go-to dessert because we always have a jar of our homemade cranberry relish in the refrigerator. Then, all I have to do is whip up some cream with my handy Braun blender (takes about 15 seconds), stir and serve.
We can’t decide which style of cranberry relish we like best–the English conserve style (recipe follows), or this simpler spiced version. So we make both, and give some away.
Process the relish in a hot water bath, as for jam or jelly and you’ll have a jewel-like gift to add sparkle to your gift boxes. For simple canning water-bath canning instructions, watch this video.
This spiced cranberry relish is a good foray into the world of home food-preservation.  There’s no worry about pectin and jelling and all that iffy stuffI can do the whole process, from preparation through clean up, in less than an hour.
This Spiced Cranberry Relish recipe makes 4 ( 8-ounce ) jars. (Or use the cute little 4-ounce jars, and triple the recipe to make 24 gem-like presents).

  • 2 (12-ounce) bags fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 3 oranges
  • zest from 2 large lemons
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
  1. Cut each orange into 8 section. Peel and remove seeds. Puree (in a blender or with an immersion blender)
  2. In a large saucepan, combine berries, sugar, water, pureed oranges, lemon zest and spices. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat an simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pack hot in sterile hot canning jars and process for 10 minutes (see video) to store in cool dry conditions for up to a year. Or freeze. Once opened or thawed, the relish will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Our English-style cranberry relish is more complex and takes a little longer to cook. But it’s impressive. We’ve even discovered the way to get  cranberry  nay-sayers to taste it is: don’t call it cranberry relish. Call it a royal conserve.
The idea for mixing nuts with cranberries comes from Ken’s first chef-mentor, Art Woods, who claimed to have worked as a saucier for Queen Elizabeth II before coming to America. His accent and his chef-skills satisfied everyone who knew him at the Wagon Wheel Lodge in Rockton, Illinois, that his resume was true. Here’s our version of
A Royal Conserve

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  •  skin of 1 organic navel orange, diced 1/4-inch square
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger root

Combine all the above ingredients in a medium sauce pot. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered approximately 8 minutes to caramelize the sugar and reduce the liquid. Then add the following ingredients to the pot:

  • 1/2 cup orange juice (freshly squeezed is nice, but not necessary)
  • 12 ounces whole fresh cranberries (1 bag)
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 peeled orange (leftover from the peeling you used in part 1), pitted, segmented, and chopped

Cover and simmer until berries are all “popped,” approximately 20 minutes. Reduce heat to lowest setting and add:

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 medium-sized sweet apple, cored, peeled, chopped and soaked for five minutes in the juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger root
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

Turn off the heat. Let the berries rest, covered for five minutes. Process in water-bath canner (makes two 8-ounce jars plus a dab left over, for gift-giving, double or triple the recipe) or cool and refrigerate.
Which one to use to make a fool? Kids prefer the simpler version; I’m partial to the royal conserve.
Which version of a fool would you like best?

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