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Turkey With What Sauce?

by Elizabeth Skipper | June 11th, 2014 | Ask the Chef
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backdrop-22024_640Maybe once or twice a year I make a turkey or turkey breast, when it is not during the holiday season.  However, I am not able to find fresh or frozen cranberries to make cranberry sauce.  Is there another fruit I could use (and find easily) to make a different sauce that would complement the turkey?

It sounds as though you want to duplicate the Thanksgiving presentation of turkey as closely as possible, just at other times of the year. Interesting. I like to make turkey other times of the year, too, but I always prepare it differently from a Thanksgiving bird. However, you asked about making something similar to cranberry sauce, so I won’t go down that path.

Cranberry sauce – whole or jellied? And cranberry sauce vs. cranberry relish? Some might consider these the same; I don’t. To me, cranberry sauce is a cooked, sweetened fruit sauce, the only ingredients being cranberries and sugar. The only difference between regular sauce and jellied is that the jellied is strained, or clear. The acidity comes from the tartness of the fruit itself.

Cranberry relish is different. It may be raw or cooked, simple or complex. The simplest definition I found for “relish” is, “a highly seasoned food used as an accompaniment.” Relishes can be made with pickled fruits or vegetables, vinegar or other acidic components. As cranberry relish’s tartness is from its inherent nature, let’s think about other fruits’ acidity.

What produce is available and when? In spring, rhubarb and strawberries are in season. In summer, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, and melons arrive, along with quinces going into fall. In winter, apple, pears, and citrus fruits are at their peak, and pomegranates come into the market from California.

Taking those one by one, acidic rhubarb suggests chutney, which sounds tasty. I can’t wrap my head around strawberries in relation to turkey in any way. Blueberries would go nicely in a chutney. Raspberries are naturally tart-sweet, and mixing them with peaches is classic. So, a raspberry-peach sauce, perhaps? Melons… nope, doesn’t strike me. Pineapple made into some kind of compote could work. Quinces share the trait with cranberries of needing plenty of sweetener to make them palatable, so there’s another possibility.

We’ll skip fall; that’s for cranberries. Moving on to winter and apples, applesauce goes well with pork, so why not with turkey? You can make pear sauce just like applesauce, or a mix of the two would be interesting. The citrus family — oranges, tangerines, grapefruit – don’t sound too likely, although tart little kumquats sound promising. They make great marmalade, and cranberry sauce is a lot like marmalade without the rinds.

And let’s not forget preserved fruits, particularly dried ones. Prunes don’t sound good, but apricots and figs do. Ginger is available year round, and would add zing to anything that would otherwise be too sweet or one-dimensional. Last but not least, dried berries are available year round – you could even fall back on dried cranberries. I think we’ve come full circle.

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