food as fragrance

Last weekend I decided to tackle a chore I had been putting off for a while: giving my coffee pot a proper cleaning. The sources I consulted instructed me to run cycles of diluted vinegar and baking soda through the machine at least two times. I did so diligently, semi-aware of the rancid smell that was overtaking my apartment, but more intent on getting my machine squeaky clean. I figured I’d just let the acrid stench dissipate naturally, forgetting that I had a friend staying on my couch (which sits 5 feet from my kitchen) that very night.
I needed a fragrant fix. And I needed it fast.
Luckily, I had all the ingredients for one of my favorite fall staples on hand: ginger orange cranberry sauce. Once fresh cranberries hit the produce shelves, I buy a bag a week, throw them into a pot with orange zest, ginger, and sugar, add a dash of cinnamon and vanilla for extra warmth, and voila—I’m left with a vat of ruby-red, sweet, tart sauce that I pile on everything from oatmeal at breakfast, to yogurt at lunch, to what you now may know as my go-to dinner food, sweet potatoes. Perhaps the best part of making cranberry sauce—and the most important aspect this time around—are the incredible smells that emanate from the pot as the berries bubble and burst in a ginger-orange bath. The aromas give me the comfort of knowing that Thanksgiving is around the corner and that soon, I’ll get to make this cranberry sauce with my mom and eat it surrounded by family. And in case you were wondering, this cranberry sauce does an excellent job at making vinegary odors dissipate into an autumnal abyss.
Ginger Orange Cranberry Sauce

1 bag fresh cranberries

Zest of 1 orange
2-3 inches ginger root, finely grated
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)
1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)
Place cranberries, orange zest, ginger, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring contents to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and allow mixture to boil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the cranberries have popped (you can tell the cranberries have popped when they have a slit in them). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and cinnamon if using. Allow mixture to come to room temperature in pot. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools. Enjoy warm on the spot, or store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
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