Chicken Livers with Highbush Cranberry Sauce


I don't know whether or not it's a good idea to start out by telling you that highbush cranberries (Viburnum opulus) have a strong scent when they are cooking.  I don't want to scare you off from eating them, but highbush cranberries are known by another name in my house - stinky sock berries.  But hey, lots of great tasting foods have strong odors, just think of the world of cheese.

I couldn't resist highbush cranberries. I was riding along one of my usual trails in a snow storm in early December when they first caught my eye.  Amidst all of the gray and brown of winter, their cherry red color was attention-grabbing.  I kept riding past them for a week, not sure I wanted to slide down the embankment, and wade across the mud/ice to get to them. But eventually curiosity got the better of me, and I put on my rubber boots and braved the ditch to check them out.

When I saw that the shrub had leaves with three lobes, and the berries had a single flat seed in the middle, I knew that they really were highbush cranberries (which are actually a honeysuckle). I excitedly started my harvest. In the midst of picking, I heard a muffled "somethingsomethingsomething BIKE something." I thought someone was trying to run me out of the ditch, and even though I was picking legally, I generally try not to cause any trouble, so I simply yelled "yes," while frantically trying to finish picking my highbush cranberries.  Then I heard "HELLO?" and when I popped out of the ditch (which was far taller than my head) I saw a friend from the bike shop, who simply wanted to know if I had had an accident.  Sigh, foraging is always an adventure.

While highbush cranberries were new to me, my friend Alex of A Moderate Life was well familiar with them, and told me that she just cooks them down and uses them like regular cranberries.  So, I decided to go the jam route for easy storage.  I loaded the pan with highbush cranberries, added 1/2 c. water to keep them from scorching and let them cook until they all had popped and released their juice (warning - this is the stinky bit).  I then ran them through the food mill (cheese cloth would also work) to get their juice and pulp, returned this to the pan, added an equal amount of water, and sugar to taste, and let the mixture simmer until it was a jam-like consistency. Highbush cranberries must have a lot of pectin because my jam came out quite thick.

I found highbush cranberries to taste much earthier than true cranberries; they have a similar tartness, but not the same high note. I thought that the strong flavor of the bush-cranberry jam would pair very well with another strong flavor - liver.  And it turns out that they were amazing together, each mellowing the other in a fantastic swirl of flavors.  Try this one, I don't think you'll be disappointed.


Chicken Livers with Highbush Cranberry Sauce

Clean, dry, and season chicken livers with salt and pepper.  Saute them in lard in a medium-hot cast iron skillet, about a minute on each side. Be careful not to over-crowd the pan.  Remove the chicken livers from the pan, tent with foil, and let them rest for at least ten minutes.  The trick here is to get a nice brown crust on the livers, and leave them rosy pink in the middle.

De-glaze the pan with a few spoonfuls of highbush cranberry jam, thinning with a little water, if necessary, to form a nice sauce consistency.  Add in a pinch of salt, some freshly cracked black pepper, and a 2-3 crushed juniper berries, to taste.  When the sauce has become nice and bubbly, add in a few small pats of cold butter, one at a time, stirring constantly.  If you're a ten year old at heart like me, have yourself a good giggle over the fact that this technique is called mounting.  Once incorporated, the cold butter will leave the sauce magically glossy.

When your highbush cranberry sauce is finished, toss the livers with a spoonful of it.  Serve on a bed of mashed butternut squash with an extra spoonful of sauce, and sprinkled with a few toasted butternut squash seeds, and slivered green onions.

If you actually read all of that (thank you), do me a favor and look at the picture of the finished dish at the top of the page.  See how that one chicken liver looks like a heart?  Neat-o, huh?  That little heart-shaped liver made me so happy (it's the little things in life).

I'm sharing this post with the Hearth and Soul hopReal Food Deals, and Pennywise Platter Thursday, and Fight Back Friday.

Comments

  1. Oooh Butter, between the pictures and the idea that there's yet another way to make liver palatable, I'm quite tempted. Wonder if there's something comparable around here. Maybe toyon?

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  2. That was a silly thing to say. Toyon isn't remotely like a cranberry. It's just a red berry. See what happens when I try to say interesting things when it's past bedtime...

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  3. I don't think it was silly. I don't really think these taste that much like cranberries. I've made chokecherry jam that I don't think I could distinguish from cranberries, but bush-cranberries are unique. There's something about their funkiness that is perfect with liver, but I think most jams (plum?) would actually make a nice sauce with liver, but might need an extra spike of vinegar.

    And btw, I really did like the liver, it was yummy.

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  4. LOL sorry! I forgot to tell you about the odor! Yep, like Durian, they taste WAY better than they smell! You certainly got a great haul! I am so sad that I wasn't there in time for our harvest. Usually the birds leave them alone because my mother has 5 bradford pears in her back yard for them to munch on, but because we have had so much snow, they must have been staying closer to the brush and thus, since these bush berries are next to the brush, they got eaten. Next year I will go out earlier. You know these might be a candidate for the slow cooker in the garage, like with the leaf lard! :) hugs and thanks for hosting and posting on the hearth and soul hop! Love ya! p.s. bekks, you are so hilarious! I love you!

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  5. Ooo- that looks yummy! I never thought to pair liver with fruit- I usually only make them with sauted onions into a pate...
    So glad you're also out foraging, even in the winter. It makes me feel like less of an idiot that I'm posting about foraging mid january when everyone comments "Well, where I live, we're covered entirely with snow. What's with all the foraging posts?"

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  6. That heart is the first thing I noticed! All I can think when I see this is rich and delicious. Sounds so amazing. I don't think I've ever seen stinky sock berries around here, but I'll keep my eyes peeled now. Beautiful, thanks so much for posting and hosting the hearth and soul hop, Buttah ;)

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  7. I LOVE chicken livers. It's so underrated, and I love the tartness with this.

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  8. I have never heard of bush cranberries before but they look beautiful. My Mom used to make a Chinese recipe with chicken livers and almonds that I used to enjoy, but I bet they are wonderful with those cranberries! Thanks for introducing me to another new ingredient :)

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  9. YUM. I love reading about your foraging adventures. I need to find someone who can teach me about local wild edibles. And I thought honeysuckles were poisonous!

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  10. Hi Butter,
    I just love your adventures, I always learn something new. Those berries look so interesting and I am going on the watch for them. You make it all look so easy. Thank you for sharing and hosting. Happy Travels!

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  11. The berries are beautiful! I like lots of stinky food. :) Molasses is one that quickly comes to mind. I about fell over the first time I smelled it, but it sure tastes great in recipes! I would love to try bush-cranberries, but I think I will try pairing it with fish or chicken. ;)

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  12. I LOVED that stink sock bit! Once I served homemade pasta with truffle oil, sal de mer and freshly grated Grano Padano. I thought I was the bomb. Then my oldest cried, "Why does this pasta smells like feet!?" NOBODY would touch it, let alone eat it. The oil and salt were gifts and I should have savored it and used only for the adults. Live and learn.

    I am visiting from Pennywise Platter by the way.

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  13. And, oh! By the way, stunning photography. Really. My pic are always goofy ones with the kids. I keep thinking one of these days I will take a GOOD photo. You are my inspiration to actually do it!

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  14. Glad to see there are some other fans of stinky foods :) And chicken livers!

    Thank you for the compliment, Melissa.

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  15. I really like some stinky stuff, like cheeses but honestly I've cooked these and just couldn't get past the odor. It is crampbark after all! They are so beautiful and wish I could use them. Really the birds don't even eat them and they are still on our 4 bushes in the spring! Good for you for making them work.

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  16. Yes, the perfect chicken liver is crusty on the outside and pink on the inside. Yummy. What a great combo. Definitely going to try this. Thanks for sharing. Will have to settle for bagged cranberries, though, because they don't grow wild,here.

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