Make your own cranberry sauce. Do not–for the love of your petty, vengeful, god–serve your guests that jiggly canned cranberry atrocity. He will smite you, if you do. I promise.
I grew up thinking that the stuff in the can was how cranberry sauce was–a “square earth” belief if ever I’ve had one–even though I could never understand why they called it sauce even though it came out of the can as a sort of flaccid log that my grandmother sliced into rounds that looked like beets steamed for the better part of a week. Rigorous, scientific study at our research labs in the a secret underground facility in an abandoned coal mine just outside Possum Glory, PA have deduced that canned cranberry sauce is over 50% Petroleum by-product and contains significant amounts of alien DNA–the space kind, not the kind that get my conservative Christian friends all stirred into a gun-clutching tizz. Further study suggests it is made by a consortium of large corporations including Dow Chemical, British Petroleum, Halliburton and the Dole Pineapple Company–the very same people who, along with WalMart and the Pringles Potato Chip alliance, run the shadow world government.
Make it fresh. The interwebs are teaming with recipes, and here’s mine. It’s awesome.
1 bag of Cranberries (used to be a pound, now they sell you 12 or 14oz.)
1 large, juicy orange to make about cup of peeled and diced orange
1 large, tart baking apple–get a good one, not one of those flavorless Delicious-derived hybrid, peeled and cored and diced
1/2 Cup granulated white sugar + 1/2 cup brown sugar (or just 1 C white sugar)
1 cup apple juice, cider, or orange juice.
1 teaspoon cinnamon
no more than 1/2 teaspoon ground clove (be careful, clove is strong and not for everyone, but it adds an exotic flair to this simple side dish).
Put the juice and a few tablespoons of water in a large saucepan, add the apple, cranberries, orange, and sugar in that order and bring to a boil on medium low heat, stirring when necessary. Cook until the berries begin to burst, then add cinnamon and clove and cook until you get a texture you like, between 10-15 minutes. The longer you cook, the smoother it becomes. I like it sort of medium lumpy.
You can fool around with this recipe as much as you’d like–we’ve made it with just apple or just orange, with and without the clove, and I even diced up a cup of seedless grapes one year in order to add bulk and to use up the grapes before leaving town for the long holiday weekend.
We generally kill a single recipe of this on the day of, but the it lends itself easily to doubling, which I make ahead and store in the fridge in mason jars with plastic storage lids so there’s a chance to have some left to eat with leftover turkey. Hint: it’s great on toast or bagels, too.
5. A pizza will cook faster on the pre-heated stone than on a metal pan. Keep an eye on that bad boy so you don’t burn it.
6. Remember, that necessity is the mother of invention–you don’t need anything fancy to do this. Pizza is descended from a way to use leftovers–glopping stuff onto slices of flatbread. An old Italian man I knew as a kid–a guy who fled Mussolini by stowing away on a ship, with no money and no documents, and jumping off the ship to swim ashore when it reached New York–wouldn’t have dreamt of eating pizza after he established himself in this country. He owned a bar and two houses. Pizza was poor peoples’ food and beneath him. Enjoy it accordingly.
Oh, yeh–don’t sleep in your pizza. It’s not done in the best of families.
The Make a Pizza Night Post will appear Sunday around 7pm–at which point this sentence will turn into a link
I’m serious, man. Make a pizza tonight.
Sauce. You can get some damn fine sauce at the store, but part of the joy of pizza is the path you take to get there, so I offer this.
Get a 28oz can of the best damn tomatoes you can buy. San Marzano tomatoes. Or, if you’re like us, get some frozen tomatoes from the deep freeze or a jar of self-canned tomatoes from the pantry shelf–if using the latter, a small can of good quality tomato past speeds the process. In a pinch, you can use puree, but that’s cheating. Of course, we’ll be cheating ourselves tonight on one of our pies–I’ve got a jar of locally made sauce from Labriolla’s Italian Deli & Grocery–and cheating is perfectly acceptable. Abandon any recipe that calls for adding sugar.
While your crust is rising….
28oz tomatoes, fresh or canned, or puree
tomato paste if you want
1 head of garlic
parsley, basil, oregano as desired
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium low heat in a large skillet, being careful not to scorch or burn the oil (you’ll smell it if you do, in which case just wash out the pan and start again being more careful and using less heat.)
Roughly mince about 4 cloves of garlic (or more if you’re feeling it, or less if you’re–well, there’s no need for insults) and toss it into the olive oil. Cook it just long enough that the garlic releases its scent–I don’t know how else to explain it, because I’m not a trained cook, but sauteed garlic reaches a point where it releases a puff of sweet, garlicky goodness–pay attention and you’ll notice for yourself. That scent means that it is perfectly done, and another 30 seconds will ruin it. Get it off the heat, or get your tomatoes in there.
Put your tomatoes into the skillet and stir to mix in the olive oil and garlic. Add an optional half cup of a hearty, clean wine–whatever you’ve got handy or open. Then settle in, and stir every few minutes, until the sauce is reduced. It will turn darker as you cook–that’s the sugars in the tomatoes changing. I have an old Italian sauce recipe that calls for cooking all day until it turns brownish, the sugars partially carmelized, but we don’t need that for a nice, wholesome tomato sauce. If the sauce does get too thick, simply add water a teaspoon at a time until you get a good consistency. When you’re nearly done, add a tablespoon each of fresh finely chopped parsley, basil, and two teaspoons of oregano, a pinch of black pepper, and a scant teaspoon of salt–and cook it for about 5 more minutes–you’ll get a much better, fresher taste from your herbs this way than if you cooked them all along with the sauce. If you’re using dried oregano, leave it out of the sauce and just sprinkle it very lightly over the cooked pizza when you’re done. Some people cook onions or peppers in their sauce–don’t. Better to dice them and add them as a topping.
The Make a Pizza Night Post will appear Sunday around 7pm–at which point this sentence will turn into a link
Make a pizza. Post a link on the Pizza Post that will appear on this blog Sunday Night. It’s a double dog dare–you can’t refuse. If you must, shortcuts are allowed: pre-made crusts, sauce from a jar, whatever it takes. Hell, send out or heat a frozen cardboard pie. I’m going to make this easy for you…here’s a crust recipe, with a sauce recipe to follow this evening.
Perfect Pizza Crust
You can make this up to a day ahead of time, or any time up to 2 hours before you’re ready to eat. The longer it has to rise, the more subtle and tasty it will be.
1. Put 1 Cup of very warm water in large, heavy bowl. Add a tablespoon of brown sugar, honey, or even plain old sugar if that’s all you’ve got, and a tablespoon of flour–we like pastry flour or 00 Semolina, but use whatever rocks your world. Mix it up to form a pasty broth.
2. When the water has cooled (but remains warm–ideally around 100-105 degrees F, the temp you’d use for a baby bottle–above 114 degrees you risk killing your yeast) add 2.5 teaspoons of dry yeast, mix that in until it dissolves, and set it aside for 5-10 minutes. It will get a little foamy–that’s little baby yeast growing up. While it proofs, get the rest of your ingredients ready.
3. Add 1.5 cups for flour, 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or some sort of fat, like softened but not melted butter, or even vegetable oil–but if you use a solid, make sure it gets mixed in), and 2 teaspoons (or I heaping teaspoon) of salt. Chemically, you need the salt, but erring on the side of caution is preferable to too much). Mix this mess together with a fork until it’s a sticky ball, adding more flour (a little bit at a time) as needed.
4. When it’s relatively solid, spread a little flour on a flat, clean surface and start kneading. Press the dough ball flat, fold it in half, turn it one quarter turn, fold it again, squeeze it flat, and keep going like that for 10 minutes, until you’ve incorporated enough flour to make the dough “silky”–pliant and smooth, but not sticky. If the dough becomes difficult to work, let it sit for five minutes then continue. If you get too much flour and the dough feels flaky, add water a few drops–literally– at a time.
5. Put a tablespoon of oil in that large bowl, throw the ball of dough in on top, and swirl the dough around until it’s coated, then cover the whole deal with a damp towel and sit it in a warm, draft-free place to rise until double. An hour is probably about right, but once it’s done one rise you can put it in the fridge or just leave it on the counter over night and it will be even better. The proportions I gave you should be enough for one really big pizza, or a pair of 12-14″ pies, depending upon how thick you like your crust.
6. Preheat your oven to it’s hottest temperature. Some people use the “self clean” setting, but if you’re like me your oven locks on that setting and burns your pie to ash. I can get 575 out of my vintage hotpoint gas stove–but a good brick oven place is cooking your pie at upwards of 800, so don’t be shy.
7. Get your pizza flat. The best way to do it is by stretching it, working around the edge, or tossing it. I’m terrible at that , so I sort of push it out with my fingers from the center to the edge of the the floured surface I’m working on ( you can also squeese it out directly on the pan you’re using). A rolling pin is an option I use when I’m cooking several pizzas in a row, for guests, but squeezing the dough changes the texture a little–and purists will regard the use of a rolling pin as sacrilege. Stretching, if you can do it, is preferable.
8. You know your oven. If it’s not really hot, you may want to pre-cook the crust for about 4 minutes before adding the toppings–especially if you put your pizza in a pan with an edge (like a cookie sheet). Throw on your toppings and go to town–remember if you use a lot of watery veggies that they can make the pizza runny. Avoid this by laying the veggies on top of the cheese and other toppings.
9. Cook until the cheese is bubbly and just beginning to brown on top.
Autumn is, in my mind, incomplete without spending at least one brisk, sunny weekend morning outdoors, on the patio or perhaps tailgating before a game, with a tall tumbler of this most delicious elixir in one’s hand. It’s an excellent complement to hearty slab of good, crusty bread and a chunk of assertive cheese. Do not, under any circumstances, pour this drink over crushed ice. Any Bloody Mary is better than none, but the Hemingway recipe is definitive.
Hemingway Bloody Mary Recipe
To a large pitcher (anything smaller is “worthless”) add:
1 chunk of ice (the biggest that will fit)
1 pint of vodka
1 pint chilled tomato juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 jigger fresh lime juice
Pinch celery salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch black pepper
Several drops of Tabasco
“Keep on stirring and taste it to see how it is doing. If you gets it too powerful weaken with more tomato juice. If it lacks authority add more vodka.”
A word about Vodka: there is very little correlation between taste and price with Vodka. That said, a Bloody Mary is certainly not the place to dump your expensive bottles, or your throat-burning cheapies that scorch a path down your gullet like a can of flaming Sterno. I recommend Plantation, or Luksusowa–both nice balances of price and smoothness.
Some notes: 1.)You’ve undoubtedly seen Bloody Marys served with celery slices, which is fine but not necessary if you add the celery salt. Unless you like celery a lot, which I do, although I’m still ambivalent. A spring of crushed celery leaf would add better flavor. I’m of the opinion the celery just gets in the way. 2.) The addition of extraneous ingredients–like gin, sherry, vermouth or, gods help us, bacon or clam juice* is a sacrilege. 3.)Large pieces of ice are preferable because they melt more slowly (less surface area) and take longer to water down your drink. It is rumored that Hemingway used a tennis ball can to make ice cubes for his pitchers. 4) In a pinch, lemon juice can replace lime juice. 5) Using V-8 instead of Tomato Juice is an interesting variation.
*Adding clam juice, or substituting Clamato juice makes a different drink, the Bloody Caesar.
Ewing’s Mill was a working, historic water-powered grist mill in our county when I was young. At some point it closed, and remained so for several years. Before plans to revive it could be brought to fruition an idiot drove his coal truck into the structure, doing considerable damage, and it again sat idle. Finally, as final insult, a wealthy texan bought it, tore it down, and hauled the timbers away, leaving very little indication that it ever existed. The recipe below does not quite match the delicious pancakes of my youth–most commercial cornmeal is not milled to as fine a texture as Ewing’s did, and vegetable shortening has changed over the years to accommodate new fears and understanding saturated fats. Still, this recipe is better than most. Real butter and quality maple syrup (not the stuff made from corn syrup) bring this breakfast to life. Add some cinnamon and a teaspoon of vanilla for a change of pace.
Ewings Mill Corn Meal Pancakes
1½ C. flour
1 tsp. Salt
2 C. milk
¾ C. corn meal
2 T. sugar
½ C. melted shortening–we like butter flavored Crisco
4 ½ tsp. Baking powder
Sift flour, measure and mix with other dry indgredients into a 3 qt. Mixing bowl. Beat egg, add milk and pour all at once into dry ingredients. Beat until smooth then add melted shortening. Let sit about 10 minutes, heat a griddle until a drop of water dances on the surface. Cook on medium heat until edges begin to dry, then flip. Ready when golden. Serve with butter and maple syrup.
I love to tell stories with words and images, often with a darkly magical twist. While speculative fiction & dissecting pop culture are my primary passions, I also work with clients & brands by assisting with content creation, editing, marketing & design.