Show of hands: how many of you Americans had cranberry sauce with your turkey yesterday? Add my hand to the mix. Cranberries, however, are a North American fruit. While they were imported commercially to England as early as 1820, they weren’t a traditional sauce for turkey there until much, much later.
Instead, our nineteenth century young lads and lasses might have eaten their turkey with bread sauce. Here’s a modern version of the traditional recipe, which should serve about 8 people (thanks to ElinorD for the photo):
4 slices slightly stale white bread
½ of a medium onion, peeled
8 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
8 black peppercorns
1 pint whole milk
4 T butter, in 2 parts
2 T heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Remove the crusts from the bread, tear the bread into pieces, then crumble it into fine crumbs. Poke the cloves into the onion. Put the onion, bay leaf, peppercorns, and milk into a heavy saucepan. Over low heat, bring the mixture almost to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and cover with a lid. Leave it to settle for an hour.
Remove the onion, bay leaf, and peppercorns and throw them away. Over medium heat, bring the remaining mixture to simmering, then beat in the breadcrumbs and 2 T of the butter. Lower the heat and return the mixture to simmering. Cook the sauce for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the crumbs have swollen and thickened it. Beat in the remaining butter and the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper. To keep it warm, serve it in a warmed sauce boat or bowl.
One caveat: I have never tried this recipe, and those who know me well will understand why. I am seriously allergic to onions. I generally substitute something else for them in any recipe, but, from the sound of it, this recipe wouldn’t be the same without it. If you make the bread sauce, please let me know what you think. Until then, enjoy your cranberry sauce!