• by Chef Jenn Farmer •
Autumn is my favorite time of year, especially on Nantucket. I cannot think of anything I dislike about this time of year, except maybe the fact that winter is on the way. The leaves changing color and the smell of nature on the crisp fall breeze would probably be enough to make me smile, but throw in the bountiful harvests at the end of the growing season, the cranberry festival, and the excitement of Nantucket Bay Scallop season, well that just makes me giddy.
On October 12 from 11 am to 4 pm, we have the 11th Annual Cranberry Festival, held in the cranberry bogs on milestone road. The harvest /festival started out pretty small, simply a tent with old pieces of harvesting equipment, and a few other interesting booths sponsored by the Nantucket Conservation Foundation. That first year was very quiet, but I found deep pleasure just wandering around the area, and watching the harvest in the bogs was fascinating and very interesting. Today the festival has grown into a wildly popular event with live music, food, sheep shearing, hay rides, and self-guided tours to name a few activities offered at the festival. Don’t forget to buy some fresh cranberries. They store well in cool temperatures and are quite versatile, not to mention a necessity for every Thanksgiving table. If you aren’t much of a cook, there are some great drink recipes with cranberries and cranberry juice, like frozen cranberry margaritas. If you are creative the possibilities are endless.
Horseradish is also in season, and it’s a great companion to cranberry. I like to make this relish for Turkey Day, but end up using it on roast beef sandwiches and pork chops the whole week long. It is even good folded into a little mayonnaise and used on leftover turkey sandwiches.
Cranberry Horseradish Relish
- 12 ounces of fresh cranberries
- 1 apple cored, cubed. and not peeled
- 1 orange, cubed and not peeled
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2-1 tsp freshly grated horseradish orprepared horseradish
Toss into a food processor and pulse until it is chopped the texture you want. I like it in small chunks, but some people like it pureed completely. Serve immediately with turkey, pork, chicken, or roast beef. Yields 2 cups
Nantucket Blueberry and Cranberry Sauce
- 2 cups fresh Nantucket cranberries
- 1 cup fresh Nantucket wild blueberries
- 3/4-1 cup freshly squeezed OJ
- 1/2-3/4 of a cup sugar
- One teaspoon vanilla
Heat cranberries, blueberries, orange juice and sugar together in a small sauce pan. When the cranberries begin to burst the sauce is done, add the vanilla and give the sauce one last stir. Serve warm or chilled with meats or use as a sweet topping for ice cream. Recipe yields about 3 cups cranberry blueberry sauce or 8 servings.
In addition to traditional relish and sauce, I like to make what I always think of as harvest cake, since it utilizes cranberries and pears which are both in season. Apples or local peaches can be substituted for the pears in the recipe, although I think pears and cranberries are a delicious flavor combination.
Cranberry Pear Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- heaping teaspoon ground allspice
- heaping 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 4 large local eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 ripe pears, medium diced
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
Brown Sugar Glaze
- Three quarters cup cream
- Scant one half cup brown sugar
- One teaspoon vanilla
- Sprinkle of cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Check your racks, middle rack is ideal. Butter and flour a 15 cup Bundt cake pan, and set it aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, beat together sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla until well incorporated. Alternating wet and dry ingredients, combine the two until a nice batter is formed, then stir in the pears and cranberries. Spoon batter into the already prepared Bundt pan, then bake for one to one and a half hours, or until a toothpick in the densest part of the cake comes out clean. Cool for half an hour in the pan, the carefully turn out onto a cooling rack. Cool completely if you are going to be serving it the next day, or before wrapping it and freezing it. Heat together the cream, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon, until it thickens a little. Pour over the warm or cooled cake, and serve immediately. If you are making the cake ahead, glaze the cake just prior to serving. Yields about 12 servings.
Speaking of exciting events in October: recreational scalloping season begins October 1, and November 1st is the start of commercial Nantucket Bay Scallop season. They are simply the best bay scallops in the world, enough said. As with most perfectly ripe or freshly caught foods, simplicity is the key to a great preparation. The scallops are delicious raw, straight from the shell, or in ceviche. They are also elegant when seared, or lightly breaded and quickly fried. The key is not to ever over season or over cook them. Football season is at hand, and crispy deep-fried scallops are about my favorite game day food in the world.
Simple Deep Fried Scallops
- 1 pound Nantucket Bay Scallops(drained if wet, juice reserved for other recipes)
- 1/2 cup flour (I often use Wondra flour)
- 1/2 teaspoon curry powder, or Old Bay
- Enough vegetable oil for frying
Heat up the oil to about 350 degrees or if using a skillet, medium high heat. Mix together the flour and seasoning, and toss the drained scallops into the flour and coat all sides well. Shake off any excess flour, and carefully fry them in small batches, until they are crisp and golden brown- thirty seconds, to two minute for this very quick step in the recipe. Remove from the pan to a paper towel lined warm tray, and allow them to drain momentarily before serving them hot. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately. For a more attractive presentation, serve on a bed of shredded lettuce with small lemon wedges, and cocktail sauce. Recipe serves about 4 people.
Of course, bacon-wrapped scallops are pretty traditional for parties. I usually precook my bacon before wrapping and broiling bay scallops; otherwise the scallops get overcooked by the time the bacon is cooked. Sometimes, for special occasions, I cut the bacon into squares after cooking it, and sear the scallops separately to give them a perfect appearance. Then serve the scallop on the bacon, and a little garnish of herbed mayonnaise or cocktail sauce. Fresh herbs and lemon wedges are attractive as well as a flavorful garnishes and are good on any preparation of Nantucket bay scallops.