Cranberry Curd Tartlets

Thanksgiving may have come and gone but fresh cranberries aren't just for holiday cranberry sauce. These sweet-tart, juicy berries are grown on vines in bogs that were originally created by glacial deposits, and thrive in the Southeastern part of Massachusetts, which happens to be Amy's home state. Cranberries possess a variety of health benefits, most notably that they are packed with Vitamin C and antioxidants, and are known to assist in urinary and digestive health. Fall is when cranberries are harvested, so fresh cranberries are plentiful now. 

We've made lemon curd before, which you can read about here, and while looking at a beautiful bag of fresh cranberries in the store, Amy wondered if one could make cranberry curd by heating up the cranberries to get the juice out of them. There would be only one way to find out! 

We heated the cranberries with sugar, orange juice and orange zest until the pop-pop-popping of the berries told us they were done. We squeezed the sugary juice into a bowl, and created a curd by adding eggs, egg yolks and butter. After it cooled, we piped it into those little store-bought phyllo mini-cups and baked them for about 10 minutes so they could set. The color was a little strange (Amy likened it to a slightly darker pink than Pepto-Bismol) but otherwise, these were creamy, tangy, sweet and crunchy all at once. The orange flavor was a bit too strong, so next time we would probably add only the orange zest.

Cranberry Curd Tartlets
Makes 30 

1 lb. bag fresh cranberries
1 cup granulated sugar
juice and zest of one large orange
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 packages mini-phyllo shells

Place cranberries, sugar, orange juice and orange zest in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until cranberries pop and soften to let out their juice (about 10 minutes). Press through a sieve into a large bowl. Cut the stick of butter into four pieces and whisk the pieces into the warm cranberry liquid. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolks. Slowly add a half-cup of the cranberry liquid into the eggs, whisking quickly to temper the eggs. Then continue to pour the remaining cranberry liquid into the eggs and whisk to combine. Return the mixture to the pot and cook over low heat, constantly stirring, until thick and bubbling, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then pipe or spoon the curd into the phyllo cups. Bake the tartlets at 350 for 10 minutes to set. 


Go Local Magazine - December 2016 Issue

It's the holidays, and Go Local Magazine's December issue has plenty of features to inspire you to make this year's season your best yet. 

Several of this month's articles focus on unique holiday traditions, including: 
  • A woman in Stafford Springs who practices and teaches the art of Japanese Temari 
  • The residents of Greenleaf Drive in Hampden, who have made their street a celebration of Christmas since the 1970s 
  • Balboni's Bakery, where baking has been a tradition in Agawam for 100 years and counting 
  • Silver Bell Farm in Monson, where Holiday cheer abounds with sleigh rides, treats, and visits from Santa.
Amy had a chance to sit and speak to Rabbi James Greene of the Springfield Jewish Community Center about how family, tradition and community intermingle especially well this time of year, and that conversation is the topic of the article "Hannukah in New England."

In addition to all of those great articles, there is a list of "7 Ways to Spread Holiday Cheer," directions on how to make a DIY Snowy Candle-lit Jar, a list of local gift ideas and a holiday recipe round-up that includes A Couple in the Kitchen's "Rum Balls" and "Grapefruit Sparklers."

All of this and so much more can be found in the December 2016 issue of your favorite FREE local magazine, Go Local. Read it online here or pick up your copy at a distributor in your local town.


New England Clam Chowder

We went clamming on a recent trip to Cape Cod. Well not really recent, but don't ask us where the last couple of months went. Stock it up to having very busy teachers' lives. 

Amy had never been clamming before, although Chris used to go all the time as a kid. The youngest of seven, Chris spent his summers roaming the beaches of the Cape with his brothers, sisters and cousins, and clamming was a favorite pastime, of course, as it involved mud and tools. He was (is?) that kind of kid.

Of course, it wasn't summer when we went. It was a rainy October Sunday (the picture above is us in Chatham the following afternoon) but we managed to get in about an hour of time with our pail and rake and scored two dozen clams of various sizes, from littlenecks to bordering on what we'd consider a quahog.

We kept them in a cooler overnight then created our own New England-style chowder with them once we were back in our home kitchen. It didn't come out quite as thick as we would have liked, but we were very happy with the flavors, especially how tender and fresh the clams tasted. Next time we might add more flour, or if anyone else has a suggestion on how to thicken it, let us know.

New England Clam Chowder

2 russet potatoes
2 dozen fresh clams
2 onions
2 bay leaves
10 cloves garlic, peeled
20 peppercorns
small bunch fresh parsley
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 cup water
4 ounces diced pancetta
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
1/2 stick butter
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Worcestershire sauce, to taste

Cook the potatoes:
Peel, dice and boil the potatoes until they are tender. Then strain them into a bowl, reserving the water. 

Steam the clams: 
In a large pot put the clams, 1 unpeeled onion cut in half, the bay leaves, 8 of the garlic cloves, pepper corns, parsley, celery seed and water. Put a lid on the pot and place over medium-high heat. Steam the clams until they are all open, 5-7 minutes. Strain the pot into a large bowl, reserving the liquid. Remove the clams from the shells and chop them. 

Make the soup: 
Peel and chop the other onion and remaining 2 cloves of garlic. Wipe out the pot and return it to the stove over medium heat. Brown the pancetta in the pot. Then add the chopped onion, chopped garlic, chopped shallot, thyme and butter to the pot and cook until the onions are translucent. Then add the cooked potatoes and chopped clams. Stir in the flour at that point, and cook until the flour turns golden. Then add the liquids - 1/2 cup of the reserved potato liquid, the reserved clam broth, and the half-and-half. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and season with salt, pepper and/or a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, all to taste.