When fall is in full swing and leaves are drifting off of tree branches as the days get shorter, lighter summer dinners are replaced with hearty, autumnal dishes. While turkey roasts, comforting stews, and pumpkin pies are some of the quintessential fall foods, you can always make room for a variety of autumn-inspired salads. And what better way to rev up a fall salad than with cranberries? From cranberry sauce to cranberry wine, that little red berry is another autumn classic. But we're not talking about adding plain old cranberries to your salad, we're talking about pickled cranberries.
Pickled cranberries offer a sweet yet tangy contrast to the savory and earthy flavors often found in fall salads, giving each bite an intriguing and palate-expanding taste. The pickling process leaves cranberries firm and dense, which imparts a refreshing textural crunch that maintains a blast of juicy goodness. Plus, pickled crans typically pair quite well with a wide range of proteins, greens, dressings, and other common salad ingredients, so you're unlikely to run out of combinations for your newly improved fall salad rotation.
Pickled Cranberry Basics
You're probably familiar with cranberries and may have even enjoyed them in a salad. But since cranberries are often associated with the holidays, they're not usually a common pantry item. And even diehard cranberry enthusiasts might not be familiar with pickled cranberries.
Pickling involves preserving food by immersing it in an acid or brine like salt water, sugar water, citrus juice, and vinegar. Cranberries are typically pickled using sugar water, vinegar, or both to maintain their naturally sweet flavor while adding a tart twist. They can be pickled with other ingredients and spices to add aromatics and an enriched depth of flavor. Compared to fresh cranberries, their pickled counterparts are less sour. The brine penetrates the berry, giving them a more complex flavor and firmer texture.
You may think that pickled cranberries and the traditional cranberry sauce served at American Thanksgiving are the same, but that's not the case. Cranberry sauce is typically made by cooking fresh cranberries with sugar and water until they break down to form a smooth, sauce-like consistency, and is served shortly after it's made. You might also confuse pickled cranberries with cranberry relish, and although they share similar ingredients, cranberry relish is smoother and, like cranberry sauce, is intended for consumption shortly after it has been prepared.
Pickled cranberries, however, don't have to be eaten right away. Since the pickling process preserves the cranberries and extends their shelf life, they can last up to six weeks in the refrigerator.
An uncommon yet irresistibly delicious ingredient, pickled cranberries pair well with pretty much the full spectrum of fall foods. They pop against the slightly peppery backdrop of a base of mixed salad greens, and add both vibrant color and a tangy bite to grain-based salads such as quinoa, which can be a blank canvas on which to build vibrant flavor.
Pairing pickled cranberries with roasted butternut squash introduces a warm, earthy, essence to the berries' tanginess. Brussels sprouts have a mildly nutty and slightly bitter taste, which complements the sweetness of the cranberries while also adding bursts of color to your salad. Don't overlook meats -- roast chicken offers a savory, tender, and slightly smoky flavor that contrasts nicely with the flavor profile of pickled cranberries.
Nuts and fruit are a match made in heaven, so don't hesitate to include slivered almonds or crushed walnuts in your pickled cranberry-laced salads. As for cheese, a tangy, salty feta cheese can round out the tart bravado of the cranberries. When it comes to topping your salad with a dressing, a balsamic or citrus vinaigrette will blend seamlessly with the pickled cranberries' zest.
Don't be afraid to mix and match, whichever way you choose to make your fall salad, as long as you're including pickled cranberries, you're in for a treat.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.