Recipe: Handmade Cranberry Sauce

Preserving fruit in any manner can take quite a bit of time and generate a lot of dirty quipment for cleanup. And while I’d made jams and jellies many times over the years, making cranberry sauce for the holidays had never really come to mind. Now, I love cranberries, particularly the more pure juices for drinking and whole cranberry sauce for eating. At one time Ocean Spray had a cranberry museum near Plymouth, Massachusetts, which I visited in May of 1991. It wasn’t until then that I really understood why only certain cranberries could be labeled as “fresh”.

In the fall of 2018 Mary and I were visiting the hard cider taproom at Ricker Hill Farms in Tucker, Maine, when I found myself really looking at a bag of their own fresh cranberries. The berries looked better than most so, curious, I flipped the bag over. Looking at the recipe on the back of the bag, I finally realized how simple making the sauce would be.

While the recipe calls for 1 to 2 cups of sugar I elected to use the lower amount as I’d rather taste the cranberries, not the sugar. I also elected to use a raw cane sugar to fall in line more with the fresh cranberries. In places such Michigan where sugar made from sugar beets is available, that would also be an excellent choice.

This process is so simple that, as long as you’re paying attention while the sauce is boiling, this recipe should work correctly every time. And the flavor is far better than any canned cranberries I’ve had. Be sure to use local cranberies when they’re available, but really any cranberries labeled correctly as “fresh” should be alright.

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is so simple and inexpensive to make, there is no reason to buy it canned besides convenience.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time9 mins
Total Time14 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Christmas, cranberry, holiday, sauce, side, Thanksgiving
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 12 oz Cranberries, whole
  • 1 cup Sugar Raw cane sugar or sugar made from sugar beets will work best
  • 1 cup Water

Instructions

  • Combine the ingredients in a 2 quart sauce pan and stir.
  • Bring to a boil, and start a 9-minute timer.
  • Stir every minute or so to prevent sticking, reducing heat to keep the foam down while maintaining a boil. The shells of the berries will begin to "pop" after a minute or so. Late in the 9 minutes, the boil will become a hard simmer.
  • When the timer goes off, immediately remove from the heat and stir. Allow to cool before pouring into a glass bowl or dish.
  • Chill and serve.

Notes

  • If you prefer the smoother "jellied" sauce, after cooling purée the sauce with a stand blender or immersion blender.
  • Suggestions include replacing some or all of the water with bourbon, rum, champagne, better orange juice, or ading chopped pecans or walnuts, cloves, star anise, or orange zest.

The Ubiquitous Pulled Pork Recipe


Pulled Pork Hoagie

With Mary being a travel nurse now, and the two of us moving around the country on a regular basis, we have plenty of opportunity to feed other people. We occasionally feed not only the people we stay with, but more often we feed the staff she’s working with in a given facility. In the previous post and recipe I included an image of the Chicken Noodle Soup I’d made for her co-workers in Gallipolis, Ohio. Now a few months later, after making BBQ Pulled Pork for her co-workers in Cody, Wyoming, one young lady asked me for the recipe.

Looking through this blog and my other sites, it dawned on me I’d never posted this particular recipe. I’d posted a few versions along the way using specific ingredients … But as far as my “generic” recipe went, the procedure I use most often, it was nowhere to be found.

What’s most interesting to me about this recipe is really how simple it is. There is very little preparation involved, and once it gets going it basically takes care of itself. You only need to keep an eye on it from time to time to make sure it’s progressing nicely, accomplishing a few tasks to help it on its way.


Pulled Pork Tacos

I use this recipe for many reasons and in varying amounts. At home, most batches weigh less than 10 lbs and will sometimes last almost a week. But for larger groups I’ve made catering batches that sometimes weigh almost 30 lbs. On occasion there are leftovers from those batches and we’re able to bring some home. But in other locations, when I go to pick up the crockpot or other serving vessels, there is nothing left for later.

BBQ Pulled Pork can be served in many ways. Most times I’ll simply provide buns and plates, as well as bowls and forks for those diners who would rather forego the buns. Lately I’ve also been including a bowl of good cole slaw for use as a side or for those who like to add the cole slaw to the top of the meat on a sandwich. Pulled Pork can also be used in omelets, burritos, tacos, hoagies, or any other dish where small pieces of juicy meat can be enjoyed.


Two pork shoulders for a large gathering, approimately 10lbs each, on a rack in an oval roasting pan.

There are two different cooking methods I use for BBQ Pulled Pork. For larger amounts, particularly when we’re not on the road, I’ll use an old-school blue oval granite-finish roasting pan, with both a rack and a lid. Various sizes of this roasting pan are available, as well as round and rectangular configurations. But for this recipe, it’s really the rack for inside the pan that’s important. With larger pork shoulders I’ve also had to set the lid aside and cover the pan with heavy duty aluminum foil instead. But the rack is always inside under the pork.

The other device I use, especially when traveling, is a 6-quart crockpot (aka, a slow cooker). Liners which make for easier cleanup are available near the aluminum foil in most grocery stores for use with these cookers. It really doen’t matter what size the cooker is, as long as the pork shoulder you’re cooking fits in it comfortably so the heat can surround the shoulder properly. This airflow is why I use the oval roaster with a rack for larger amounts.


A 7.5 lb pork shoulder in a 6-quart crockpot, using a slow cooker liner for easier cleanup.

The key decision to make is what style combination of rub and sauce you want to use. My go-to rub really isn’t a rub: It’s my favorite spice mix for just about anything, Miracle Blend from Alden Mill House in Alden, Michigan. When my wife starts a new assignment, I make sure to have plenty of this stuff in the pack-out. You can also use a simple combination of salt, pepper, garlic, and any other spices you’d like, and simply add them directly to all sides of the pork.

There are also a couple rub recipes I use to achieve certain flavors:

Brown Sugar Rub

  • 1/2 cup Brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1/4 cup Sea salt
  • 3 tbsp Black pepper, coarse ground
  • 3 tbsp Granulated garlic
  • 2 tbsp Rosemary
  • 2 tbsp Marjoram

Savory Rub

  • 1/2 cup Sea salt
  • 1/4 cup Black pepper, coarse ground
  • 1/4 cup Granulated garlic
  • 2 tbsp Ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp Smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp Rosemary
  • 2 tbsp Marjoram

I’ve also been known to just throw ingredients into a bowl and mix them by hand to create a rub, not really measuring anything, adding other ingredients to taste depending on my mood. You can be as creative as you’d like, achieving whatever flavor profile seems best.

The sauce we use most often is Sweet Baby Ray’s Original. For savory sauces, Montgomery Inn and Stubbs are excellent choices. Make sure to have about a half gallon of sauce for every 10 lbs of pork.


A batch of completed pulled pork, ready for transfer to the crockpot for transport.

Start with a 9 – 11 lb bone-in skin-on (if you can get it) pork shoulder. Generously rub all sides of the shoulder with your rub or seasoning mix. For an oval roasting pan: Place the pork skin-side-up (or fat-side-up) on a rack in the roasting pan, cover it with a lid or aluminum foil, and roast it at 225F for eight-to-ten hours. Test the pork (see below) after about the seven hour point. If not done, continue cooking, testing every 20 minutes. For a crockpot: Line the crockpot with a commercial liner and add the pork, skin or fat side up. Cook it on low for twelve-to-fourteen hours. Test the pork (see below) after about the eleven hour point. If not done, continue cooking, testing every 20 minutes.

In testing the meat you’re not looking for a given internal temperature, but rather the meat flaking apart like a good fish fillet, without being mush.

Remove the meat from the heat. While pulling the pork apart into a large stock pot, remove and discard the skin, fat, and the bone. Add your desired sauce to the pork and stir, completing the pulling for a good texture. Heat the sauced pork through in the stock pot before serving.

Updated Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe


A serving of Chicken Noodle Soup made with this recipe for the overnight staff at Holzer Senior Center in Gallapolis, Ohio, on January 12, 2019.

I had first posted my recipe for Traditional Chicken Noodle Soup on December 30, 2007. In the subsequent decade it’s been made numerous times at our house during chilly days and cold winters in Michigan. Our daughter Bree and I have also swapped out traveling the 45 miles to each other’s home to make it when the other has been too sick to make it for themselves.

It’s also been made a few times for Mary’s nursing staff coworkers, as a special treat, as a winning item for some kind of staff activity, or as part of a potluck. It hadn’t been made in all of 2018 after Mary began working as a traveling nurse in April. But on January 12, 2019, the overnight nursing staff scheduled a “soup potluck” at Holzer Senior Center in Gallapolis, Ohio, where Mary was working. It was quite a hit, to the point where Mary’s coworkers requested the recipe.

At that point it dawned on me just how much the recipe had evolved. I now had it down to a single pot, and it was richer than before if only because I was now cooking the noodles in the juices from the chicken. Cooking the noodles with the vegetables is also a major timesaver. I wrote out the recipe by hand so Mary could make copies (we don’t travel with a printer), and I present it here as well. Make sure the freshest ingredients possible, as well as using chicken stock instead of broth or boullion. Enjoy!

Chicken Noodle Soup

A family favorite, this is requested by those who are ill as well as by some of Mary's co-workers.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Amish, chicken, Jewish penicillin, noodle, soup, whole chicken
Servings: 6 quarts

Ingredients

  • 1 each Chicken, whole, with giblets
  • 1 stalk Celery
  • 1 lb Carrots, whole
  • 1 each Onion, large or 2 medium onions
  • 1 lb Noodles, Egg, Amish-style, extra wide
  • 1 cup Chicken stock not broth or boullion
  • Granulated Garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

  • Break down the chicken and add it and the giblets to a stock pot.
  • Add 4 – 6 quarts water to the stock pot (enough to cover the chicken by about 3 inches) and salt well.
  • Stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, boil the chicken till fork-tender with no redness at the bone.
  • Remove the pot from the heat. Remove the chicken from the pot, retaining the water (and discarding the giblets), and set the chicken aside to cool.
  • Clean and slice the celery and carrots and do a large chop on the onions. 
  • When the chicken is cool enough to touch, skin and debone it, then cut it into bite-size pieces.
  • Bring the pot back to a boil. Add the vegetables and the chicken stock, stir well and season to taste. Immediately add the noodles, then cook until the noodles are al dente.
  • Remove from the heat, stir in the chicken, and serve.

Notes

The soup can be frozen in portions for reheating later.

Descriptive Food Adjectives

Click here to download the complete list of adjectives on our sister site, Cuisinology.com.

We eat regularly. Whether you’re a snacker who barely eats anything but small meals throughout the day, or a trucker or charter bus driver who eats big meals to endure the longer drives, or an athlete or a member of the military who eats larger and more specific meals to achieve various physical goals, food is a part of our everyday lives. We then go to eat at a restaurant, take a bite of food … and the server invariably appears just then to ask “How is everything?” After chewing that bite of food and finally swallowing, do you honestly know how discuss what you’re eating? If you’ve watched the countless competitions on various food channels you might have an inkling of what to say. But like anything else, it takes practice.

Consider the popular Chicken Pot Pie. There are variations that some might also mention, such as the salmon, lobster, and pork pies popular in New England, the Cornish pasty of Minnesota and the upper peninsula of Michigan, and other local specialty pies. Going with the basic version, a Chicken Pot Pie, be it from a Southern cook, a pie shop in Maine, or a Grandmother in the midwest, has some characteristics which you may expect but haven’t actively thought through. The crust can be a light and flaky butter crust such as the ones found in fruit dessert pies. The more common crust is a shortening crust, although lard is once again becoming popular. These crusts are more robust and dense than their flaky, buttery counterpart. In either case the baker needs to protect the edge of the crust to prevent excessive browning or singing during cooking as this makes the crust edge unpalatable. The sauce in the pie should be rich and thick, creamy and well-seasoned, with a robust chicken flavor. It shouldn’t be thin or watery, or be floury or starchy in flavor or texture. The vegetables should be firm and have a good bite to them, being well-seasoned and flavorful, certainly not soggy or bland. There should be ample chicken that’s well-seasoned, moist, fork-tender, and has a good bite to it, not soggy, bland or fatty whatsoever. Overall the pie should look appealing, have ample filling to be the robust comfort food the diner expects it to be.

In the above discussion there are certain adjectives used in describing the various parts of the dish:

  • Chicken Pot Pie: Appealing, Ample, Robust, Comfort food
  • Crust: Light or dense, Flaky or Robust, possibly Buttery, not Browned, Singed or Unpalatable
  • Sauce: Rich, Thick, Creamy, Well-seasoned, Robust, not Thin, Watery, Floury or Starchy
  • Vegetables: Firm, good Bite, Well-seasoned, Flavorful, not Soggy or Bland
  • Chicken: Ample, Well-seasoned, Moist, Fork-tender, good Bite, not Soggy, Bland or Fatty

What diners expect to find in a good Chicken Pot Pie is now condensed into this relatively short list of adjectives, including both pros and cons. This becomes a method for determining if your own pies are acceptable, or if those made by others or served at restaurants you visit are acceptable. What’s right or wrong with a given pie can then be discussed and any adjustments can be made. The list can also be used to develop cards for judging Chicken Pot Pies at competitions. Learning to talk about food can be that versatile.

In menu descriptions the Chicken Pot Pie can be described in similar manners. But in menu descriptions there are rules that have to be followed:

  • Simple: Ensure any diner can understand the menu description without much further explanation by the server.
  • Accurate: Preparation methods, personnel quality certifications, and other descriptors have to match how the dish is made.
  • Truthful: Point-of-origin or source, ingredient certifications, and related information cannot cause a “bait and switch” situation.

Menu descriptions for a Chicken Pot Pie might read as follows:

  1. “Chicken Pot Pie, a great comfort food.”
    • This can be baked and served from whole, frozen pies without possible issues.
  2. “Handmade, just like Grandma used to make! Rich and creamy, with large chunks of chicken, lots of veggies, and a golden, flaky crust.”
    • The pie crusts, chicken and vegetables might be from frozen and the sauce might be from a can, as that’s how Grandma might have made it. But the pie has to be assembled and baked in the restaurant’s kitchen or in a supplying commissary.
  3. “Our handmade pie, made with fresh hand-cut vegetables and whole chicken, and a thick flavorful sauce in a golden-brown crust.”
    • Only the vegetables have to be fresh, the rest can be as in the first example, including the chicken being from frozen.
  4. “Handmade pie, made with tender, slow-roasted free-range local chicken, with organic vegetables cooked to perfection, a rich and creamy sauce made from whole local milk delivered daily, and our own robust and flavorful lard crust. Our most popular comfort food! Topped with a slice of our fresh, handmade mozzarella and additional sauce on request.”
    • All of this has to be absolutely true for each and every pie. If, for example, local chicken isn’t available for some pies, or anything else in the description cannot be fulfilled, it’s better to 86 the pie off the menu until the described ingredient is once-again available than it is to possibly become embroiled in claims or court judgements of false advertising.

Recipe: Crock Pot Creamed Corn

One of the most popular recipes on Luna Pier Cook is Mary Jewett’s Kentucky Sweet Corn Pudding. We’ve enjoyed it ourselves for many holiday get-togethers over the couple decades since we first got a copy of it from Mary herself. The number of page views on the recipe have really skyrocketed since I first posted it in 2008 as people search for an alternative to the standard Green Bean Casserole. It’s becoming a staple all its own.

For Christmas dinner in 2018 our daughter Bree told us she’d located a recipe she really liked along the same lines. It was apparently just as simple to make, using a crock pot to develop a creamed corn that would be just as good as our now-standard corn pudding. I was a bit leary of it myself, as I could just stand there with a spoon needing to be dragged away from Mary Jewett’s specialty. But Bree insisted, and on the day of our family dinner she brought a crock pot with a batch of the stuff in it.

I found I could just stand there with a spoon needing to be dragged away from this new specialty. Rich and flavorful, with crisp corn kernels and a thick cream, and just the right amount of salt and pepper … It was really nice stuff.

It turned out the recipe was Crock Pot Cream Corn by Holly & Katie over at The Semisweet Sisters. Its quite simple as Bree had said, but is also hearty and filling … Still, I could just stand there with a spoon and keep eating it.

We now have two corn dishes for the holidays. Choose your weapon.

Crock Pot Creamed Corn

Adapted from The Semisweet Sisters
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time3 hrs
Total Time3 hrs 15 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Corn, Creamed, Crock Pot
Keyword: corn, creamed, creamed corn, crock pot, crockpot

Ingredients

  • 20 to 30 oz Corn, whole kernel, frozen
  • 8 oz Cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup Milk, whole, or half-and-half
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black pepper, ground

Instructions

  • Put all the ingredients into a crockpot.
  • Cook on high for 2 to 4 hours or on low 4-6, stirring after the first hour.
  • Stir and taste, and adjust salt and pepper as desired before serving.

Notes

  • For more freshness, you can also cut kernels from fresh cobs of corn and freeze them for 24 hours prior to using them to make this dish. Just be sure to still have the same amount of corn by weight.