Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Grandmother's Cranberry Sherbet, our Thanksgiving Tradition


Thanksgiving is around the corner and that means Christmas is right behind.  Besides the shopping and the decorating, one of the wonderful traditions of both holidays are the meals we share as families.  No matter where I am in the world, I know what my mother will be preparing for Thanksgiving.  It is the same menu her mother prepared, and probably her grandmother and great-grandmother, too.  Turkey, of course (which Daddy cooks on the rotisserie in a great brick barbeque built into my mother's kitchen), sweet potatoes with pineapple and marshmallows and creamed onions with cheddar cheese (Tillamook, my dad's favorite).  But the dish my children loved the most was cranberry sherbet.  The first time they were old enough to comprehend that Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma Gard's house included “ice cream” their faces lit up.  Years later, my mother inherited the special glass dishes that her grandmother served sherbet in a hundred years ago.  I watched my mother make that sherbet every year, and it was a right of passage the year it was my turn. 
First I had to acquire the key piece of equipment.  The sieve.  The cone shaped sieve in its stand, complete with the solid wood pestle that presses the liquid through the tiny holes.  When that wood pin is immersed in the cranberry mixture the first time, it takes on the most wonderful color.  I was so excited to find one at a charity tag sale and snapped it up.  Then the recipe, which over the years I have telephone my mother for on numerous occasions.  Its not complicated, but timing is everything.  Fresh cranberries must be boiled (they pop!), then sieved, then brought to a boil after the addition of sugar.  Then poured into a freezer safe dish and placed in the  freezer.  Patience.  Stir several times while it freezes until “mushy”.  More patience.  When that elusive but oh so important “mushy” moment arrives, stir in whipped cream.  Immediately the sherbet turns exactly the right color and even before it is frozen it tastes right, familiar.  Tangy, yet sweet.  It tastes like Thanksgiving.  Below is the recipe card, spotted from years of being in the kitchen, written out in my grandmother's hand.
Through the years, if we weren’t at my mom’s, I would make the sherbet and my daughters would watch.  When my daughter Megan got married and started a home of her own we gave her a sieve for Christmas.  Hard to wrap, and sort of funny looking, but she knew exactly what it was for:  to start those memories for her little girls. 
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, enjoy your traditions old and new!

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