Have you ever thought of how much we tend to associate certain foods with specific seasons or holidays, often serving them only during a limited time period?
Cranberries are like that. Make some cranberry relish to go with the Thanksgiving feast, maybe make a cranberry dessert during the Thanksgiving to Christmas festive season, but then, except for the dried ones substituting for raisins, cranberries pretty much drop out of sight the rest of the year.
Because of this seasonality, however, I learned long ago that fresh cranberries are often on sale at really low prices after Thanksgiving and, sometimes, after Christmas as well.
This year was no exception. I found the standard 12 ounce bags of cranberries at one store for only 35 cents each. Grabbing up several bags, I brought them home, froze some, and put the rest in the produce drawer of my refrigerator. (If purchased in good condition, the berries will last for more than a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.)
One of the reasons I like to stock up on cranberries has to do with another seasonal food: cherry pie is often featured around Presidents' Day, in honor of the George Washington cherry tree myth, and sometimes Valentines Day, just because of the all-things-red kinds of menus.
The recipe that follows is one that will substitute very well for cherry pie, at a much lower price. Don't skimp on the almond flavoring, and do try my daughter-in-law's innovation of a graham cracker crust instead of the standard pie crust. In order to enhance the almond flavor that enhances the cherry-like flavor, I have subbed in some ground almonds for part of the graham crackers. Of course, if you want the pie to really look like a classic cherry pie, you can spend lots of time making a lattice crust, but why bother when you can so much more quickly make this one that will taste just as good--or even better.
12 oz bag cranberries--about 3 cups
1 3/4 c sugar
2 T cornstarch
3/4 c water
1 t. almond extract
graham cracker crust for 9" pie
1. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and water in a large saucepan and stir until all the sugar and cornstarch are dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.
2. Meanwhile, wash the cranberries, sorting out any that may have spots. Drain and add to the boiling sugar mixture. Continue cooking until all the berries have popped, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir often.
3. Remove from heat and add the almond extract. Pour into the prepared crust and place the pan on to a pizza pan or cookie sheet.
4. Put the pie and the pan beneath it, in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until the filling is bubbly all around the edges. If the edges of the crust begin to darken, place a ring of aluminum foil loosely over the edges.
Graham Cracker Crust
1/3 c butter, melted
1 c graham cracker crumbs (about half a 12 oz package)
1/2 c ground almonds (approximately 2 to 2/12 oz)
3 to 4 T sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1. Prepare the crumbs by whirling in a blender or food processor. You may also place the crackers in a heavy plastic bag and roll over the bag with a rolling pin. Try to get the crumbs as even as possible.
2. Melt the butter and pour into the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan. If using a glass pan, you can just melt the butter right in the pan in the microwave.
3. Stir in the remaining ingredients and, using a fork or your fingers, toss the ingredients together until they are well blended. Press the crumbs firmly against the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
(If desired, you can reserve a few crumbs for the top of the pie. However, I don't do that because, as soon as the pie is cut, I always manage to have some of the crumbs "migrate" to the top of each slice anyway, as seen in the photo below.)