Sunday, November 3, 2013

Nantucket Cranberry Pie

Until I discovered this recipe for Nantucket Cranberry Pie a couple of years ago, I had never tasted a pie made with fresh cranberries. My intake of cranberries had been pretty much characterized by a limited number of food preparations containing cranberries (cranberry chutney, cranberry sauce, and, oh yes, dried cranberries in cookies or bread). Thus, I didn't think a pie made with such a hard, tart cranberry would taste good in a pie, particularly in one that called for mixing them in raw. But the combination of fresh cranberries, pecans, orange extract and almond extract make for one incredibly delicious pie. It is a pie that is both tart and sweet, which for me, is a perfect combination.


Whether it was the simplicity of the recipe, the reference to Nantucket or my love of the taste of cooked cranberries that drew me in to making this pie, I am glad I did. Thankfully I didn't let my limited cranberry consumption exposure prevent me from making this pie. (Up until I started this blog, I actually thought I had a pretty good knowledge of and relatively wide range of experiences with food. I have caught myself more than once in the past year admitting to my unfamiliarity with or limited application to quite a few foods. So it seems that my perception hasn't been in alignment with my reality, on the culinary front anyway.) 

I know Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, but this isn't only a pie to be made at Thanksgiving. No, it is one of those pies that is delicious year round (that is for as long as you can find fresh cranberries). Having said that, it really would be a great addition to any array of Thanksgiving desserts (even if you are serving a cranberry chutney or cranberry sauce during the meal, as there are certain times when there is no such thing as 'too much' cranberry). For those of you who believe otherwise, consider serving this on Thanksgiving morning, at least then there will be a several hour gap between your consumption of cranberries.  In other words, you should really make this pie. And you really don't need or shouldn't have to wait until Thanksgiving to make it.



In addition to the cranberries, pecans, butter, sugar, flour, eggs and sea salt, the pie also contains both almond extract and orange extract. Be certain not to use 'imitation' extracts as they will not yield the same results. Most grocery stores carry both extracts, however, you can always find almond extract at Williams-Sonoma. 

Two cups of fresh cranberries, a half cup of toasted, chopped pecans and one-half cup of sugar are mixed together in a medium sized bowl and set aside. The recipe uses a total of 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup is mixed in with the nuts and cranberries and 1 cup is mixed in with the remaining ingredients.


The melted butter, lightly beaten eggs, flour, one cup of sugar, almond extract, orange extract and pinch of sea salt are mixed in a large bowl until combined.


The cranberry, nut and sugar mixture are added in and blended together with a wooden spoon or spatula. The result will be a very thick batter.


The batter is scraped into a glass or ceramic nine inch pie plate lightly sprayed with a cooking spray and placed in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. The baking time on the original recipe was 45 minutes, however, I have found that the baking time is often closer to 60 minutes. The pie is done when the top is a light brown, you can see some of the cranberries have burst, and it pulls away slightly from the side of the pie plate. This is a pie served at room temperature so it can be made early in the day, covered and kept at room temperature.


Recipe
Nantucket Cranberry Pie (slight modification to the Nantucket Cranberry Pie recipe created by Will Hotham in the "Home Port Cookbook: Beloved Recipes from Martha's Vineyard")

Ingredients
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract (recommend Nielsen-Massey Pure Almond Extract)
1 teaspoon orange extract
pinch of sea salt

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray 9 inch glass or ceramic pie plate with cooking spray.
2. In a medium sized bowl, combine cranberries, pecans and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Mix and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, mix melted butter, eggs, flour, remaining one cup sugar, almond extract, orange extract and pinch of sea salt until blended.
4. Add the cranberry/nut/sugar mixture and stir gently to combine both mixtures.  This is a very thick batter.
5. Scrape batter into a 9 inch glass or ceramic pie plate. Bake 45 to 60 minutes or until browned, some of the cranberries have burst and it pulls very slightly from the edges.(Note: My baking time tends to be closer to 60 minutes but I start checking at 45 minutes.)
6. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving. 
Note: Leftover pie should be covered and either placed in the refrigerator or can be left out. If refrigerated, bring to room temperature before serving or enjoy chilled.


The first time I traveled to Nantucket I felt a sense of the island's history as soon as I deboarded the ferry. Or maybe it was more like an aura, one that I have had a hard time describing. Certainly I had never experienced such a feeling in any of my prior travels so this is a place that has left a permanent imprint on me. Whatever it was that I felt, I thought that if I were on a ship in the 1600s and the first sighting of land was Nantucket, I wouldn't have wanted to travel any further. This would have been the end of the journey for me. I most likely would have become one of those who would 'never have left the island'. While the landscape has changed over the past four hundred plus years, I have no doubt it has always been a compelling, beautiful place. From the original cobblestones in the center of town; to the uniqueness of each of the beaches; to the architecture of the buildings and homes; to the landscape; to its' history; it is without a doubt one of my most favorite travel destinations on the east coast.

Before I traveled to Nantucket, I had taken ferries to both Block Island and Martha's Vineyard. Each time I got on a ferry all I could think of was Nathaniel Philbrick's book "In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex". More specifically, I couldn't help but worry about the possibility of whales bumping the ferry and me being thrown into the middle of the ocean (an example of my very active imagination). In retrospect this unfounded fear of mine might have been just a little on the dramatic side, however, I had just read the book for the first time a few weeks before getting on a ferry that 'crossed the ocean' and so unfriendly whales were fresh on my mind. But nothing I had ever read or seen before prepared me for the sheer beauty of Nantucket. I have been known to weep over taking in nature's beauty. Being on Nantucket and hiking in the Rocky Mountains each for the first time just might have brought tears to my eyes. But I will let your active imagination decide whether or not tears were actually shed.

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