Once again I am reminded that one should never take things for granted.
I am often asked what I miss most about the U.S., with the asker usually expecting me to mouth the clichés of peanut butter (I get wonderful, natural peanut butter) or sour cream (I get crème fraîche, fromage frais and fromage blanc…. Need I say more?).
I miss cranberries.
Not always…. I only use them at Christmas.
Not every year…. Sometimes I find them.
Several years ago I actually found bags of Ocean Spray cranberries at my local Carrefour in the weeks before Christmas.
We moved here and none of the local stores stocked them.
Last year we were in Bordeaux in early December and, once again, I found them in the Carrefour – not Ocean Spray, but cranberries, in a bag, from Wisconsin, nonetheless.
Last week we were in Bordeaux, admittedly it was November 29th, not December, but I thought I'd try.
We were near an Auchan, not a Carrefour, but it was handy.
I found a likely looking person and asked.
There is some confusion here about the French word for cranberry. Some tell me it's 'airelle', which my dictionary tells me is a bilberry. Some tell me it's 'canneberge' which isn't even in my dictionary.
To prove my superior knowledge of this fruit, I bought a jar of airelles – which are easy to find. While delicious, they are definitely not cranberries.
Back to the search: To cover all my bases, when I asked for the cranberries I asked for 'cranberries, canneberge, airelle'. I was told in no uncertain terms that cranberries were different from airelle and who knew what a canneberge was….
Then I was told maybe next week.
So, on Friday we headed to Bordeaux to the Christmas Market, followed by a nice lunch, then the cranberries.
First I went to the Carrefour that had them last year.
They didn't have them.
I looked and looked and looked.
Finally, I asked. I got a blank look, then was handed a very tiny, very expensive bag of dried cranberries.
That was all they had or were going to have.
I want fresh I explained.
I got a repeat of the blank look, followed by a shoulder shrug.
I went to another Carrefour.
I got the same response – slight variation, but same result.
We went back to the Auchan we were in last week – which happened to be in the opposite direction, but we were determined.
I confidently walked to the produce section
I looked and looked and looked.
Finally, I asked. I got a blank look, then was handed the same, very tiny, very expensive bag of dried cranberries.
Then, next to the red currents mon mari spotted a little plastic box of 'Arielles'.
Remember, airelles are not cranberries…. Usually.
They were from Canada – maybe that explains it.
They were also expensive, rather small, and very egg-shaped rather than round.
But on the inside, they were cranberries.
They taste like cranberries and act like cranberries.
I'm so confused.
I made Cranberry Bread yesterday – I didn't want to risk them turning into something else in my fridge.
I also made Pumpkin Bread – using butternut squash, of course, as I didn't grow pumpkin this year. I added some coursely chopped crystallised ginger to it.
If you have lots of cranberries and are looking for an easy dessert – try this Clafoutis:
I love the very tart layer on top of the very sweet layer.
If you want something a bit differed from the usual sauce….
Ginger Cranberry Sauce
3/4 cup apple juice
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbs minced fresh ginger, more or less
2 cups whole cranberries
Heat juice, sugar and half of the ginger until sugar is dissolved. Add the whole cranberries and cook, simmering, just until most of them 'pop'. Remove and, with a potato masher, mash 2 or 3 times, no more. Add the rest of the ginger, stir well and cool.
This will get very thick when cool and will keep for several weeks in the fridge.
Note the big round cranberries – easily twice the size of the little Canadian berries I found.