Monday, April 8, 2013

Highbush Cranberry Barbecue Sauce

There is a rainbow of edible berries that grow wild here in Alaska's Interior and throughout the state. They are one of my favorite ingedients to work with. Not every kind of berry is plentiful every year, but one that I can really depend on is the highbush cranberry.

The highbush cranberry is not to everyone's liking, but neither is coconut. I like to pick my berries after the first frost.  The leaves on the bushes will start to turn scarlet, so even from the road you can pick out a pretty good patch. And keep in mind that by using the term "road", what I'm talking about is a dirt trail out in the middle of a forest somewhere! You can read more about this berry at the at University of Alaska Fairbanks, Cooperative Extension Service here:
They've even included recipes, and the one I started with can be found here. The first step is to go pick your berries. I have a nearby place near some ponds where I like to go. Here's what they look like when they're still on the bush.
I enjoy picking these because there's not as much bending over as with some of the other berries! The recipe calls for six cups, but pick a couple gallons because this is a really good sauce and you'll want to make more than one batch! This is the basic list of ingredients from the extension office site.

The first step is to make the berries into puree. I  rinse mine and fish out all the leaves, twigs, stems and little spiders that I can find. All six cups of berries and about a cup-cup and a half of water go into a large pot to be boiled until the berries are soft enough to be pulped in a food mill or a sieve. Now here's the thing about highbush cranberries - THEY HAVE A VERY DISTINCT ODOR! I would describe it as berry barf being boiled with dirty gym socks. It's still worth every bite of what it's going to become, so hang in there!

My puree looked like this, and I had to fish out a few skins and seeds that slipped through. It now goes into the pan that you're going to cook it down in (Who am I kidding here? Rinse out the pan you boiled them in and put it back in there!). Add the ingredients listed above and you'll have a really good mild ketchup.
I however wanted more of a barbecue sauce, so as it started to thicken I added: onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, red chile powder, mustard powder, cumin, Chinese five spice and liquid smoke. Nothing was added in amounts over a teaspoon, and the five spice was only like a quarter teaspoon. Please season yours to your own taste. (Like ginger/garlic for one).
And the hardest part of all is letting it simmer way down. This is what mine looked like, it made exactly two pints. I didn't can this batch in the canner since it was only two jars, I stored it in the fridge and used it all up within a couple of weeks on grilled chicken. It was awesome on wings! Give it a try, and if you're going to can it, please follow the instructions from the extension office and your canner to do it safely.

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