Holiday Cranberry Aspic Recipe
The Food Wars Stoked by Fire Blood
“Here she comes!” “Oh my God, what is she doing? She’s carrying two bowls and has a pan of something. And look, the kids are bringing more dishes out of her house! I told her to bring one large salad this year!”
This was one variation of a reoccurring speech, tersely spoken by my mother when she inevitably spied Aunt Mae (her older sister) through the kitchen window. As my Aunt and her food entourage, usually nieces and nephews, paraded across the wide grass side-yard separating the two homes, my mother would go on to say. “She thinks she’s such a great cook. She always brings new, untested recipes which fall flat on their faces. I wish just for once, she would do what I ask!”
Insert a big laugh here… Both my Mother and Aunt were amazing cooks. I don’t recall ever eating anything they made that wasn’t completely delicious. Yes, Aunt Mae-Mae was the experimental cook in our family. Mother preferred tried and true recipes.
….and they both had a shared fire blood running through their veins!
For years, Mother and Aunt Mae engaged in a subtle and mostly unspoken food war. Individually preparing and then sharing -oh so carefully and very casually- this or that tasty bit of something or another. Only during family gatherings would the pointy, pokey forks erupt in the form of verbal head-ons. When Aunt Mae hit Mother’s kitchen with her arms full of goodies, the spit-fire words would quietly fly for a few seconds! These food confrontations happened several times a year, as our family was big on gathering the clan for holidays and birthday bashes.
The family feasts were tour de forces of great home cooking and all the good (and not so good) personality points that make up our family. Lots of shared stories, much catching up on family doings and heated exchanges over political opinions could always be counted on to have a place at the dinner table. Brisk discussions of child-rearing methods and debates on religious matters also played out. It was a multi-generational tribal interaction, similar to those taking place around many American family food tables in 1950’s and 60’s era homes.
It was the food that typically took the spotlight with our family women. Various recipes and food prep tips were exchanged while the dinner dishes were being washed and put away. The beauty of the food contention between Mother and Aunt Mae is that we younger women now include recipes in our collections, that are a direct result of their intense food-making competition. We also gladly share that inherited, same fire blood which propels many of us forward in our cooking pursuits and in our movement through life.
In spite of their sisterly food rivalry, Mother and Aunt Mae always had each others’ backs. They stayed close even after bouts of “telling it like it is” to each other and remained tightly bonded, caring for one another to the end.
They were wonderful cooks, who through their cookery showered love on anyone who was lucky enough to be close at hand. This included elder family-deprived neighbors, surprised friends who were gifted with a pie or cookies just because…., hungry railroad bums who knocked on our back doors (there was a bum inscribed symbol for friendly food handouts on the back corner of our alleyway garage). They always took food to local families who had lost loved ones.
Mother and Aunt Mae were Cooks with a capital “C” and fiery women of incredible strength and purpose. Excellent role models! I’d like to share with you, two of the “Food War” recipes.
- 1 lb Fresh Cranberries
- 1 15oz. can Crushed Pineapple
- 2 large Oranges
- 1 1/2 cup Celery
- 1 3/4 cup Sugar
- 1 Package Clear Gelatin
- 1/8 tsp Salt
- 1 cup Walnuts
- Wash and de-stem cranberries. Simmer in water just to cover berries over low heat for 15 mins. Remove from heat – drain (reserve liquid) and cool. Drain pineapple (reserving liquid). Set aside.
- Grate orange rinds, set aside. Remove seeds and pith, chop coarsely.
- Chop celery into 1 inch pieces.
- Mix the above ingredients together and put through hand crank grinder (use medium course grinder head). Do not use food processor for this step. You want the foods size and texture that comes only from hand grinding.
- Mix gelatin into reserved cranberry and pineapple liquids. Prepare gelatin according to prep instructions. Add the above fruit/vege mixture. Add salt and nuts to fruit/gelatin and mix all well.
- Spoon into decorative mold. Cover with plate or plastic wrap and refrigerate. Chill until aspic is firm. Un-mold onto pretty plate just before before serving. Garnish with celery leaves and a few whole cranberries.
- 1 lb Fresh Cranberries
- 2 large Tart Apples
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1 cup Sweet Apple Cider
- 1 6oz pkg Strawberry Jello
- 2 tbsp Fresh mint
- 1 cup Pecans
- Wash and de-stem cranberries.
- Peel, core and coarsely chop apples.
- Chop pecans.
- Run the three above ingredients through course head grind. Set aside.
- Prepare jello, replacing water with apple cider. Heat over medium heat until jello is dissolved. Remove from heat – cool 15 minutes.
- Chop the mint and mix into the above fruits/nut mixture. Add all to jello liquid. Spoon mixture into vintage glass lidded canning jar. Cover with lid and refrigerate until gel set. Serve with spoon right from the glass jar. Whipped cream may be dolloped along side spooned servings of cranberry.
DId You Know?
- Cranberries are considered a superfruit? They are rich in flavanoids. Per 1oo grams, they’re high in potassium (85mg), Vitamin A (60 UI) and Lutin + zeaxanthin (91 μg) .
- Cranberry tannins are cited as having anti-clotting properties and may prevent recurring urinary tract infections in women.
- A natural dye may be made from raw cranberries.
ITEMS WE USED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE