Hot Mulled Orange and Pomegranate Tisane

It was a balmy 1 degree Fahrenheit at 9:00 AM this morning. The 8 inches of snow on the ground from Thursday night’s storm is going nowhere fast. The girls tackled yesterday’s snow day in shifts. Daughter 1 managed to get snow in her boots before Daughter 2 even made it out the door. Daughter 2, in turn, put breadcrumbs out for the birds and then wanted to “taste” the snow, which resulted in a frozen nose and cheeks that required parental intervention.

"Tasting" snow

“Tasting” snow

So we retreated to the kitchen, where we came up with a warming alternative to the oft-requested hot cocoa. Not that we have anything against hot chocolate in our house…except that it has become the first thing Daughter 2 asks for after playing in the snow. And since we’ve already had quite a bit of snow this season – and it’s only January – I’m looking for options that won’t make our little sprouts any stouter than necessary.

One of their favorite hot treats is “tea juice,” their aptly-named concoction of decaffeinated tea and juice that we serve during rainy-day tea parties. But they also don’t need cup after cup of tea, either, decaffeinated or not.

Mulled cider came to mind, but we didn’t have any cider in the house and the streets were still snowed-covered.

But we did have orange juice, and pomegranate juice, and a kitchen full of all sorts of comforting spices and ingredients. With some time to kill – school had been cancelled, after all – I put the girls to work sticking whole cloves into a couple of the clementines still left from the holidays. When I was a kid we made these and then dried them as holiday decorations. Daughter 1 in particular liked this little diversion, really getting in to the aroma of cloves and oranges.

Keeping little hands busy

Keeping little hands busy

We boiled the clove-studded clementines along with some apple slices, a healthy amount of ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom to make a tisane, which we then strained before adding this spicy concoction to the orange juice and pomegranate juice. The finished beverage fit the bill: warm and warming. A “tea juice” of our own making. Daughter 2 downed several glasses in quick succession. Daughter 1 was more critical – despite liking the aroma of cloves, I don’t think they were, forgive the pun, quite her cup of tea. They may yet become her cup of tisane on the other hand.

Some of the tisane ingredients: cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and clementines

Some of the tisane ingredients: cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and clementines

Speaking of tisane, I think that’s my new favorite kitchen vocabulary word. A tisane is a hot herbal drink, most often made by simmering medicinal herbs and spices. Not quite a tea, tisanes supposedly help relieve various maladies, like stomach aches, headaches…or in our case, a case of cabin fever.

Mmmmm. Feeling better.

Mmmmm. Feeling better.

If you’re over the age of 21 and your cabin fever reaches epidemic levels, you may want to add a spoonful of honey and a shot of bourbon to your glass of hot mulled orange and pomegranate tisane to make a hot toddy of sorts. This drink – minus the alcohol – is also good chilled.

Hot Mulled Orange and Pomegranate Tisane

Hot Mulled Orange and Pomegranate Tisane

Let me know what you think of this little winter warmer when you try it!

Hot Mulled Orange and Pomegranate Tisane

Ingredients:
2 whole clementines or small oranges, washed well, unpeeled
A handful of whole cloves (approximately 20 – 30, but don’t over-do it…cloves can get a bit strong in this)
½ apple, unpeeled, cut into thick slices
1 cinnamon stick
5 cardamom pods
1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into ¼-inch rounds
4 cups water
2 cups 100% orange juice
1 cup 100% pomegranate juice (like Pom)

Put the kids to work studding the clementines with cloves, 10 – 15 cloves per clementine. In a medium sauce pan, combine the clove-studded clementines, apple slices, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and ginger with the water.

Cinnamon and cardamom go into the pot

Cinnamon and cardamom go into the pot

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow to vigorously simmer for 30 minutes, or even longer for a stronger tisane. Turn off heat, allow to cool, and strain the now tea-colored liquid through a fine mesh sieve, reserving the tisane liquid. Discard the solids. Rinse the sauce pan and return the tisane liquid to it. You should have approximately 3 to 3 ½ cups of tisane. Add the orange juice and pomegranate juice and re-heat over medium heat until the tisane is as warm as you’d like it. Serve in mugs.

Serves: 6 – 8

A wonderful ruby glow

A wonderful ruby glow

Kid rating: Daughter 2 gives this four-and-a-half stars. Daughter 1 is not as generous.
Parent rating: I love this and give it four-and-a-half stars. Five with honey and bourbon. My husband, though, gives it two stars without the bourbon…but largely because there are so many other teas and beverages he’d go to first. Used as a toddy mix, I think I might get him back up into the four star range. Especially when the thermometer dips again later this week!

One. Degree. Brrr!

One. Degree. Brrr!

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Cranberry-Orange Relish with Ginger and Thyme

I have a Thanksgiving confession: neither of our daughters would let the holiday pass without reminding us to open a can of jellied cranberry sauce. Our oldest, in particular, is a big fan. It’s the first thing she eats at the various school Thanksgiving lunches we attend, preferring it on its own rather than as a condiment to be eaten with the turkey or stuffing.

The grown-ups around our holiday table wouldn’t necessarily disagree, but there seems to be some amount of guilty pleasure associated with eating something that retains the shape of the can in which it was packed. For that reason, going back to long before the year my husband and I started hosting Thanksgiving for our relatively small combined clans, there have been TWO dishes of cranberry sauce on the table: the jellied kind, and a cranberry relish.

Now, I thought that this particular dish was the stuff of family folklore — you know, great-grandma’s long-lost holiday recipe that traveled with relatives from jolly ‘ole England or something like that. My sister corrected me. “It was from the cranberry bag.” So much for history. But it has become omnipresent on our Thanksgiving table, so I guess we have invented some history for this dish.

Such a vibrant dish -- in looks and taste too -- for the holiday table.

Such a vibrant dish — in looks and taste too — for the holiday table.

The actual recipe was lost long ago (who holds on to those cranberry packages anyway?), and we’ve tinkered with ratios a bit over time, but this super-simple recipe calls for only three ingredients: cranberries, navel oranges and sugar. It’s quick and easy and requires no real cooking — so it’s a great dish to make with the kids — plus I’ve added some more sophisticated holiday flavors that we mix into half of the batch to change things up a bit for the adults.

The ginger was perhaps the most local of all our ingredients this year, coming from Chickadee Creek Farm in Titusville, NJ.  I was practically giddy when I saw the baby ginger at the Princeton Farmer’s Market several weeks ago. It was a thing of wonder — tender, flavorful, and beautiful to boot! I just had to buy some, and was glad to use the last of it in this recipe.

Beautiful October produce from Chickadee Creek Farm at the Princeton Farmer's Market

Beautiful October produce from Chickadee Creek Farm at the Princeton Farmer’s Market

Baby ginger - what a great find!

Baby ginger – what a great find!

When we made our cranberry-orange relish this year the girls were actually lined up to help, everything from washing the cranberries to peeling the pith off the orange to measuring sugar (always a favorite job) to pushing buttons on the food processor. And they were both anxious to taste, which was great.

Look, it's a cranberry!

Look, it’s a cranberry!

We’ll see, come Thanksgiving, if they make room on their plates for something other than the jellied cranberry. Keeping my finger’s crossed! If you make a batch of your own, please let me know how it is received on your holiday table!

Cranberry-Orange Relish with Ginger and Thyme

Ingredients:
12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries (if you have a few more ounces, don’t sweat it…use what you’ve got)
1 navel orange (navels are seedless – if you substitute, do so with a sweet, seedless variety)
Scant 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 – 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
1 – 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

Wash and drain the cranberries, picking over and discarding any berries that are soft.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel off the top layer of the navel orange rind — take care not to get any of the bitter white pith just under the surface. Save the peelings – they go into the relish. Then peel off the remaining white pith and segment the orange into a small bowl by cutting the flesh out from between the membranes. Discard the white pith and membranes of the orange.

Navel orange, rind peeled

Navel orange, rind peeled

In the large bowl of a food processor, combine the cranberries, the orange rind peelings, the segmented orange sections, and sugar. We used a quarter cup measure to measure the sugar — easier for each girl to get a turn — but filled each scoop about three-quarters full…so I guess it was more like 6/16ths of a cup…which is 3/8ths of a cup…but who has those kinds of cup measures? Just eyeball it, and use a very light hand with the sugar unless your family has a real sweet tooth.

Cranberries, in the bowl.

Cranberries, in the bowl.

Orange peels, in the bowl. Orange segments, in the bowl.

Orange peels, in the bowl. Orange segments, in the bowl.

Process the mixture in long pulses in the food processor until all ingredients are finely chopped and combined. You will have approximately 2 cups of relish.

If you want to do what we did and make two versions of this relish, remove 1 cup of relish to a small bowl and refrigerate for at least several hours (but it could be up to three days in advance) to meld flavors and allow the sugar to dissolve into the fruit and create a bit of a syrup. Take the remaining cup of relish in a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger and 1 teaspoon thyme leaves. Mix well and refrigerate as above.

If you are making a solely ginger-thyme version, use the larger amounts of minced ginger and thyme and mix throughout the whole batch. Refrigerate to allow flavors to combine as noted above.

This relish will keep, refrigerated, for a week or more. It’s great on leftover turkey sandwiches, stirred in with a little stuffing and served with a fried egg for breakfast, or go nuts and put it on a hamburger instead of ketchup.

Serves: 8 – 10

Parent rating: four-and-a-half stars. My sister and I kind-of need this on the table every year. Go easy on the sugar and it’s a tart alternative to the jellied cranberry. Great foil to all the other heavy foods on the Thanksgiving plate. Great with roast beef or ham during the holidays as well. Keep it in rotation from Thanksgiving through mid-April without batting an eyelash.
Kid rating: a solid four stars. Both Daughter 1 and Daughter 2 were anxious to try the fruits of their 10 minutes of labor, and both liked the relish very much. Different reviews though: Daughter 1 thought it tasted strongly of oranges, and Daughter 2 found it a little “too sweet.” Just speaks to how palates are very different in kids. I’m excited to see how this goes over on Thanksgiving! At the very least, the girls will be excited to let everyone else try something they made. And I’m thankful for that.