In late September we bicycled through the cranberry bogs in Cape Cod. The weather was gloriously sunny – -spectacular in fact. I could not get enough of the sparkling late summer air – - the sun on my face, a faint, salty breeze tussling my hair, an apple-picking crispness brushing cobwebs from my brain.
What could be better than a lazy Saturday afternoon on a relatively flat bike trail? But, as I peddled, I realized something was missing. The cranberry bogs beside the trail were dry and empty. Don’t cranberries grow in water? And where are the plants, anyway? I expected to see seas of red as we bicycled.
“What happened to all the cranberries?” I asked the store owner when we returned the bikes.
“Harvested,” he said. (Cape Codders are not known for using more words than needed.) “Headed for market, ” he added.
“Oh,” I said, trying to emulate his frugality.
Sure enough. Two weeks later, fresh cranberries began appearing in the produce aisle of my favorite grocery stores. Now, I realize that fresh cranberries are frozen and sold all year long. But I had never quite appreciated the relationship between the harvest and the availability of fresh produce. Who thinks about these things when they are pushing a grocery cart through a crowded supermarket?
In celebration, I bought three bags of fresh cranberries. It seemed fitting to honor the cranberry harvest with something sweet, and slightly sour. I came up with a Chocolate Cranberry Mousse Tart that I served for a recent gathering. I’ve made it twice since and the balance of tart and sweet, like the late summer sun, always amazes me.
You may find more superlatives to describe this easy dessert. But, in keeping with the Cape Cod tradition, I’ll just say, “Wow.”
The graham cracker crumb crust with a layer of chocolate can be used for many mousse-like pies. I keep a supply of Kinnikinnick graham-style crumbs on hand to make this dessert. And now I will keep a supply of fresh and frozen cranberries at the ready, too.
Chocolate Cranberry Mousse Tart
This is as festive as it is delicious. Decorate with whipped topping and chocolate shavings and garnish with cranberries.
One chocolate graham crumb crust (below) in a 9-inch tart or springform pan.
12-ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained
¾ cup sugar, divided
6 tablespoons orange juice
2 ½ teaspoons dried orange peel
1/3 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons Triple Sec or other orange liqueur or additional orange juice
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin softened in 1 1/2 tablespoon orange juice
1 ½ cup whipping cream or non-dairy whipped topping
In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, 6 tablespoons sugar, orange juice,
orange peel, and ground ginger. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Lower heat
to medium low and cook, stirring frequently until cranberries break down, about
15 minutes. Remove from heat. Add Triple Sec and stir. Let cool slightly. Press mixture through a mesh sieve, scraping puree into a bowl. Do this until all the liquid has been pressed out of the fruit. Discard pulp. Warm the gelatin in a microwave for 10
seconds or until it liquefies. Pour into the cranberry mixture in a steady stream, stirring while adding. Scrape into a bowl and chill about 20 minutes.
Beat the cream and remaining 6 tablespoons sugar until stiff. Fold into cranberry mixture and spoon into prepared crust. Chill at least 3 hours. Cut and serve with additional
whipped cream if desired. Garnish with chocolate shavings.
Chocolate Graham Cracker Crust
This easy and tasty crust can be made several days ahead and stored in refrigerator
until ready to use.
1 cup gluten-free graham cracker style crumbs (such as Kinnikinnick brand)
3 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter or non-dairy spread
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, for dairy-free chips visit enjoylifefoods.com
2 tablespoons light cream or coconut milk
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly oil the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
Combine cookie crumbs, cocoa and sugar. Add the melted butter and stir until crumbs are moistened. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake in the center of a preheated oven, 12 minutes. Remove and cool.
In a microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate chips and cream or coconut milk. Heat on medium for 1 minutes or until chips are softened. Blend together until smooth. Spread mixture over cooled crust. Chill until set. Fill with cranberry mousse filling above.