Are You an Apple Trapped Inside a Cranberry?

Do you ever feel like you are an apple trapped inside a cranberry? Or like a cranberry trapped inside an apple? Or maybe you feel like a cran-apple (or, as auto correct would insinuate, like a crabapple)?

Thanksgiving can be a tough time for U.S. fruits like us (transgender, butch, queer, or otherwise gender nonconforming). The ramp up to the holidays is packed full of images of heteronormative families in joyous and loving celebration. The women are working in the kitchen, the men are in the den watching football, and a well-behaved dog is peacefully snoozing by the fireplace. It is a constant reminder of how I don’t fit in, and why I don’t want to fit it. And that I am estranged from my birth family. It ended with Thanksgiving.

When Donna and I started our relationship, my mother would not invite her over. She was trying to keep my grandmother from “knowing.”  We were supposed to be one small normal happy family. The main source of happiness in my life was, and still is, Donna. Back then, I didn’t have a dog, but my mother would not have allowed me to bring the dog either.

I wouldn’t go to Thanksgiving without Donna. I hoped my refusal would pressure my mother into coughing up an invitation. It didn’t. We table hopped for a few years, but I wouldn’t go home. When Donna and I moved in together we decided to make Thanksgiving dinner in our home. We invited some friends over. Twenty years later, we are still cooking for the same crowd. My grandmother and my mother are both dead; stacked one on top of the other in a mausoleum in Westchester.

I spend a lot of time in November thinking about the meal. Donna and I collaborate (negotiate) on which dishes to rotate in or out. We each have our favorites; it is too much work and too much food on the table to make all of them each year. But there are always two cranberry sauces. Donna likes the traditional sauce, and I like one that is all mixed up and savory. There is no acceptable compromise.

I used to make a different savory sauce each year. A cranberry chutney with fresh and candied ginger, onion raisin cranberry confit, a cranberry salsa with cilantro and poblano peppers. Two years ago I sampled a spiced cranberry apple sauce at the Greenmarket and thought “I could reproduce this.” It took three tries to get it right, but it was good. So good that It found its place in the Thanksgiving canon, and can not be swapped out.

This year the experimentation has shifted to the “onion dish”. November means trying out some new recipes (sweet and sour onions) and tweaking old ones (jeweled roast vegetables). The dishes must be able to be made ahead of time and taste good served at room temperature or reheated with everything else after the turkey comes out of the oven. I’ve still got a week left to play.

Because I write about what is on my mind, I offer you these two recipes. Cis Cranberry Sauce for Donna, and Trans Cranberry-Apple Sauce for me. If you have never made cranberry sauce at home, it is super easy, and way better than what you get in a can.

Cis Cranberry Sauce:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 bag (12 ounces) cranberries, picked over and rinsed (remove any that are soft and squishy).
  • Grated zest of one small orange (if you have a Microplane grater use it, otherwise use a box grater and try not to grate any of the white pith).

In a three quart saucepan, bring the water, sugar, and salt to a boil. Add the cranberries.
Bring back to a boil, boil for a minute, and then lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until the berries have stopped “popping” and the mixture thickens.
Turn off the heat, add the orange zest, and stir to incorporate.
Let rest for a couple of minutes, and then transfer to a storage container.
Makes about 2 cups.

Trans Cranberry-Apple Sauce:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 bag (12 ounces or 3 cups) cranberries. Picked over and rinsed (remove any that are soft and squishy).
  • 3 cups chopped apples – apples chopped roughly to the size of the cranberries. I use Macintosh but you could use Windows.
  • 1/4 cup currants (OK to substitue raisins)
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar (OK to substitue wine vinegar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (add more while it cooks if you want it spicier – Donna is a spice wimp).

In a large saucepan or dutch oven, bring the water and sugar to a boil.
Add all the other ingredients and bring back to a boil. Boil for a minute.
Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Adjust salt and red pepper to taste.
Let rest for a few minutes and transfer to a storage container.
Makes about 4 cups.

I scheduled my top surgery for after Thanksgiving so that I could shop, cook, and clean for the holiday. I am thankful that I am able to do both, and thankful to Donna for being here with me.

Notes: I was looking for an article on the history of how “fruit” became slang for gay. Instead, I turned up this bizarre clip from the CBC on how the Mounties tried to use a “fruit machine” to identify gay men during the early 1960’s.

 

39 thoughts on “Are You an Apple Trapped Inside a Cranberry?

  1. krisalex333

    We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in South Africa and cranberries are rare, so I will drool all over the keyboard thinking of you guys celebrating on 27 November. Happy holidays from another fruit.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. Cranberries are beautiful and used to grow wild in marshes all over the northeastern part of the USA. They are practically inedible raw and unsweetened, but delicious once you sweeten them.

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      1. Widdershins

        This North American obsession with something that needs a gazillion times it’s own weight in sugar to make it palatable blew my mind the first time I came across it. Now I just shrug and say, “42”.

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      2. Jamie Ray Post author

        I am from the country that invented Coca-Cola. But I do wonder how the natives ate cranberries before sugar was imported from the Caribbean (they had maple syrup but I don’t know how they used it – another research project).

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Glad you like it. RIght now all of my family is chosen family – I’m barely in touch with my older brother – but there is a part of me that is envious of people who either fit in with their family, or the family accepts them (and their partner) just the way they are.

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      1. Tea With Ess

        I can understand that, but my chosen family have always been more important to me – and more supportive. Not because my blood family isn’t there or doesn’t accept me, but because they never choose to be an important part of my life. For me it’s the way its always been, and i can imagine that it is much more difficult if it happens “over night”. Anyway, it has become my mantra over the years and I tend to tell other people about it as often as I can (I think I use it as some type of therapy…). All the best to you and your chosen ones!! Have a lovely thanksgiving!

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  2. Cal

    Holidays, in general, used to be fun. But most of my “friends” abandoned me in the past year when I couldn’t find work, calling me a welfare bum and “lazy”. The music and everything reminds me of them, because we did so much during the holidays. I’m trying to work with it and not be a Scrooge, but sometimes it’s indeed a bummer.

    To show gratitude for having work? I am already scheduled to work Thanksgiving and Christmas. For my coworkers who are “unlucky”, we can keep each other company during the shift. Free food, nothing to make or clean up (till closing time, anyways), and the chance to earn time-and-a-half rather than spend money. My folks have their plans for each other. My sister is working, too, as she has student debt to pay off, and holiday pay especially helps.

    I pretty much have no “friends” at this point offline. So why not make some $$, look like s good worker so I can get that raise soon, and make a few Christmas miracles perhaps for someone else unknowingly? 😉

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      On my job we used to trade off holidays – not surprisingly the one day of the year that everyone wants off at Transit is Superbowl Monday – with Black Friday a close second. I never minded working either day; they are both quiet and not much gets done. Many guys hated the holidays and used to volunteer to work on them and then tell their wives that they couldn’t get the day off…

      I hope that you make the extra $$ to pay off your new Mac, and that next year is better on all fronts.

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  3. DogDharma

    You are SO far beyond me in your cuisine-ability. I will practice opening a bag of potato chips for Thanksgiving and hope I get it right. 🙂 If I were a fruit, I guess I’d be a tomato since every seems to think it’s a vegetable. (It IS a fruit, right, or have I lost the plot?) Have more than a cran-ky holiday, Jamie!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Most people think that tomatoes are a vegetable but they are technically a fruit because they are developed by fertilization of the ovaries in the plant (who knew?).

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      And Canadian! I have to admit to knowing very little about Canadian history, and everything I know about the RCMP I learned from Dudley-Do-Right. So I had no idea that Canada had its own version of McCarthyism going on with red-baiting and singling out homosexuals as security risks.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      The 1/4 tsp of red pepper is warmth, not bite – as I mentioned Donna doesn’t like spicy/hot food – if I was making it just for myself I would add more – but always better to start low and add more since there is no way to dial it back down.

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  4. queer girl

    Not every family (birth or chosen) has the women in the kitchen and the men in the den for Thanksgiving…I’m so glad you can create better memories with your family now! Here’s to keeping the traditions that make us feel loved and celebrated and tossing the ones that are bullshit. 🙂 Happy Turkey Day!

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  5. capn toni old boi night fish

    First of all, I tip my hat to your culinary skills. Also, I am glad that you and your Partner have made your own Holiday.

    As I myself am a non-cook, my Ex had the whole menu designed and I would lend a hand here and there. She always cooked way too much; enough to feed a small army! But she made good use of the left-overs so very little ever went to waste. However, I don’t believe she ever tried making the cranberry sauce from scratch.

    Speaking of which, this part of your recipe cracked me up:

    …. 3 cups chopped apples – apples chopped roughly to the size of the
    cranberries. I use Macintosh but you could use Windows. …

    I was unaware Windows made apples. 😉

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts/words. I wish for you and all yours all good for your Holidays.

    Blessed Be.
    Cap’n Toni with my Coco and Maya pups, the Birds and Fishes, in Spirit Miss Tess-ie pup, of the lil Haus….

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m a butch cook (I get to buy equipment and play with sharp knives), and a control freak when it comes to cooking for a crowd. I enjoy it and send everyone home with leftovers.
      Rather than being well behaved (i.e. a sleeping dog), Gracie will be a pest and underfoot and scheming to get some of the turkey. She gets a little in her bowl once the table is cleared and she gets some of the leftovers during the week too.

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  6. Mrs Fever

    Wow. That video was… o_O History is sometimes a scary thing; it is all the more frightening when we don’t learn from it. As butchcountry67 said: Unnverving.

    Your cullinary speak has got my tummy growling this morning. 🙂 It sounds like you’ll have a wonderful spread. Thank you for sharing your recipes.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and Donna and Gracie. 🙂

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      The whole concept was surreal. Fruit machine? Canada? Mounties? Very J. Edgar Hoover.
      I wrote in another reply that I read about the fruit machine in an article but didn’t believe it until I googled it and the CBC clip came up, so it clearly did happen, and not that long ago.

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  7. anexactinglife

    Aargh! That CBC clip makes me embarrassed to be Canadian.
    We had Thanksgiving 5 weeks ago, but I look forward to trying the Windows version of the Trans Cran Apple Sauce – maybe with Christmas or New Year’s dinner!

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  8. Lesboi

    Thanks for the recipes. I’m going to try them this year for our dinner. I guess I’m one of the fortunate ones, though there have been many years when I wasn’t, who has family that accepts me and we generally have a pretty good time getting together. Since we’re hosting this year it is a great time to be adventurous with the cranberries. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Donna and Gracie!

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  9. Georgeann

    I wish that we lived near each other because I would totally have you, Donna, and Gracie over to cook and enjoy a feast with me at Thanksgiving! I like the cranberry sauce recipes. I always make the sauce from scratch, and every year I try a new recipe. This year, I want to add sour cherries, but I think I might also try your recipe out. It sounds too good to pass up. Have an amazing Thanksgiving!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      And we would love to do it! I’ve used dried sour cherries in cranberry sauce and they were delicious (but precious). Sour cherry pie is my favorite, and I’ve made sour cherry jam in the summer (New York State has a short sour cherry season and you have to jump on them as soon as they come to the market – the ones I am able to buy now are dried and are from Michigan). Hope yours is delicious too.

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  10. liamanthony2014

    We don’t do Thanksgiving where I live. People do celebrate Xmas (I don’t), but we do celebrate Chanukkah. And I don’t think I need a reason to make your Trans Cranberry-Apple Sauce. I only need the time. I think I’ve still got a bag of cranberries in my freezer… 🙂

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Cranberries are traditionally part of our Thanksgiving meal – a long with Turkey and sweet potatoes. Cranberries were plentiful in the area where the Pilgrims lived (the state of Massachusetts) and they grew in the wild. They were not grown commercially until the 1800’s and didn’t get exported to Europe until 1820. The typical American cranberry sauce is very sweet – mine are a little less sweet, but still on the sweet side. Are you Jewish (I only ask because people kept telling me that Jamie is not a Jewish name and I’ve had to keep finding counter-arguments – i.e. Jewish Jamie’s).

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      1. Jamie Ray Post author

        Very uncommon in the US amongst Jews. Jacob or Josh are the usual suspects. I think people think of James and Christian Saints. Cranberry sauce and latkes sounds good!

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