I’m not ashamed to admit it–this time of year, I will let out my inner five-year-old and happily high-kick my way through a pile of leaves as they crunch under my feet. Out of all four seasons, the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations of fall are my favorites. I’ve made it pretty clear that I love summer, but there is something about the way fall hits all of my senses at once that gets me every time.
The sound of dry leaves skipping down the street in the wind is so unique and only comes this time of year for a few short weeks. The colors make me want to climb a tree and live in the sun-bright yellow, pumpkin-orange, cranberry-red leaves clinging to nut-brown branches, which match the colors flooding the market during its last few weeks outdoors. The smells–burning leaf piles (not as much in the city, but something I remember distinctly growing up), the earthy scent of wet leaves as they start to decompose back into the soil, getting ready for spring–fill the air.
And then there is the food with its own sights, sounds, smells, and textures. And oh the tastes. I could go on for days about the tastes of fall–the cider, squashes, potatoes, herbs, roasted meats, sweet and crunchy apples, bright and tart cranberries. The vegetables are still fresh from the ground, though, lettuces are as good as any time during the spring or summer, and there’s still time for some incredible salads.
These pickled cranberries are the first of two key ingredients I want to share for a fantastic fall salad I discovered this past weekend, but they’re also great on a turkey sandwich, stirred into some seltzer (oh I cannot wait to try this with some gin or cointreau), and probably a million other applications I haven’t even thought of yet. I’m glad I discovered these while I still have time to buy more cranberries at the market as I will be making several more jars to get me through til spring!
Barely modified from Serious Eats’ In a Pickle column. I will happily double this recipe the next time I make it! The only thing to note is that my jars lost quite a bit of liquid in the boiling water bath, but as long as the jars seal, they’ll keep fine.
1 1/2 pounds (2 12 ounce bags) cranberries, rinsed and picked over for any bad berries
3 cups apple cider vinegar
3 cups sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon juniper berries (spice shops like Penzeys or the Spice House carry juniper berries, and you may be able to find them at some grocery stores)
Prepare seven clean half-pint jars in a water-bath setup (I needed 6, but prepare an extra jar just in case).
In a large pot, combine the sugar, vinegar, and cinnamon sticks and bring to a rolling boil before adding the remaining spices (if you have a small muslin spice bag, you can use that to contain the spices if you don’t want to deal with picking them out of your final product). Add the cranberries and continue to boil for about 6 minutes, stirring as the berries begin to pop.
When the brine has returned to a boil, turn the heat off, and pull out the cinnamon sticks. Using a slotted spoon, add berries to the clean, heated jars. Break the cinnamon sticks into thirds as best you can and add the pieces to the jars. Top off the jars with the brine to leave 1/2 inch of headspace, wipe the rims of the jars, apply lids and rings, and process for 10 minutes. (Save the extra cooking liquid, pour into bottles and refrigerate. Add a little to a glass of seltzer water.)
Once the time is up, remove jars to a towel and allow to cool before checking the seals. If any jars don’t seal, refrigerate at least a day before enjoying.
Don’t throw away the pickling liquid in the jars! You’ll need it for the salad I mentioned, or try it as I mentioned above, mixed with seltzer.