It’s funny how family feasts evolve.
When I was a kid, the only thing cranberry that I ever encountered was a weird can shaped gelatinous mold that only appeared on the table at Thanksgiving.
When I made all of my holiday meals from scratch, I never touched cranberries. I had no idea how to approach those hard little ruby nuggets.
Now that I’ve transcended the need to prove myself with scratch cooking, I’m not afraid of taking shortcuts.
Except with cranberry jam.
It’s so simple, so good… You absolutely should make this from scratch with zero shortcuts.
I mean, it only takes like five minutes and it tastes divine.
Plus it gives you yet another excuse to stand over a bubbling pot, stirring, muttering, and sprinkling spells into your cooking while your family watches and wonders… Are you adding or subtracting days from their lives?
My middle witch joined me in the kitchen today and especially enjoyed squeezing the life (I mean juice) of an orange into our jam.
Are you ready to get started? I’ll go ahead and give you the recipe here. If you’re interested in a bit of kitchen witchery and the magickal aspects of my ingredient choices, keep scrolling past the recipe.
The ingredient list is fairly small.
(and includes affiliate links)
- A bag of cranberries
- An orange
- A cup (or half a bit more) of sugar
- Cloves (two or three healthy pinches)
- Cinnamon sticks (two or three)
- Star anise (one or two will do)
- Ginger (Just a pinch for me.)
***A note about spices. I use whole, dried spices in this recipe. You can absolutely use ground spices. You can also use fresh ginger. As with all culinary calculations, go with what you feel.
Put all of your ingredients, except the orange, into your chosen cauldron.
Pro Tip: Count your cloves! You’re going to pull them out later and you’ll want to know that you’ve got them all.
Zest your orange directly into the pot. After it is well skinned, squeeze every ounce of its life blood (juice) into the pot as well.
Turn on the heat. Somewhere between medium and medium high. You know your stove better than I do. This is the longest step. We want a few things to happen here. The sugar should dissolve into the orange juice and start to bubble. If the heat is too high, the berries will scorch before this happens. If the heat is too low, the sugar won’t dissolve and you’ll never get that wonderful spicy infusion that you’re looking for. Just keep stirring and adjust the temperature as needed.
Once you’ve got the temperature right , you’ll know. The sugar will dissolve. The pot will begin to bubble. The berries will begin to burst against your spoon, filling your pot with a lovely color reminiscent of the blood of your enemies. The aromatic tantalization of spices will begin to tease its way into your nostrils.
You’ll know it’s done when every berry has burst and the whole concoction has reduced by half.
Pull put your spices. Unless of course you used ground spices. That would be impossible. If you didn’t count your cloves, it’s not the end of the world. Just be prepared to pull one out when slathering your biscuits. There are always more cloves than you remember.
Jar up that beautiful jam. It’ll keep for a while in the fridge, but ours never sticks around that long. Hell, I’ve caught my little pantry mice standing in front of the fridge and scooping it out with a spoon.
Pro Tip: Use a jar funnel (affiliate link) to keep the mess to a minimum. This jam is both sticky and staining so you don’t want it lounging about in big globs on your counters for too long.
Now that you have something yummy to eat, shall we dive into a few of the finer kitchen witchery points?
Let’s start by talking cauldrons.
I have fallen in love with cast iron. I know, it was a long time getting here but here I am. If given a choice, I’m cooking with cast iron and baking with stone. It makes me feel so much more connected to my ancestors than some tin pot.
If you can, find yourself some enameled cast iron as well. It cleans up easy and is such a treat to work with. Trust me. I found my enameled skillet at Sam’s of all places but you can find them online as well if you have nothing local. Something like this (affiliate link) is perfect for the budget minded witch whereas this (affiliate link) would be wonderful if you’re feeling a bit more extravagant.
Now that we have a proper pot with which to work, how exactly do we begin?
I’ve always found kitchen witchery to be my most comfortable spell work. Whispering rhymes, stirring intention and wellness into the very food and fuel that my family consumes.
Magick is a very personal endeavor. You might find that you are satisfied with simply and silently stirring intention into your cauldron. You might find that you crave the formality of ritual or desire to speak your spells to life.
You can do any of these actions at any time during your work. If you use the act of stirring to promote your will, remember that you stir clockwise to increase things and counterclockwise to decrease them.
On this particular day I stirred clockwise, whispered my spell with my daughter, and screwed the lid on the final jar with a firm “As I will, so mote it be.”
But it can’t all be intent. What about the ingredients?
The ingredients are every bit as important as your intent. You’ll want to be careful not to contradict yourself in word and spice. With winter coming on, I chose ingredients not only for their magickal attributes but for their ability to warm the soul and stimulate the immune system. Take any medical attributes with a grain of salt and a heavy dose of your own research.
It’s hard not to imagine these little berries as anything other than magickal. They are after all bog fruits, born of the same bogs that are all too often associated with witches, elves, and fairies. Bog that have time and again preserved our ancient rites and given us tantalizing clues to our past lives. Even the color, so rich and red, is an indication of its power.
Traditionally cranberries have been used in rites between Samhain and Yule. They speak to us of abundance, healing, protection, love, and lust. Used properly, they can bind a couple together during tough times, promote healing, encourage fertility, and bring about abundance beyond imagining. Cranberry juice can also be used as a replacement for wine during rituals and ceremonies.
Medicinally, they are both antibacterial and antioxidant. Most famously, they are often used to treat or hold off urinary tract infections. In dishes, they are a tart delight. Beyond their culinary attributes, they have also traditionally been used as decoration during the darkening seasons to protect both home and family.
Another magickal fruit, oranges have long been associated with love, marriage, and prosperity. Dried flowers, peels, and seeds are often added to love sachets. Orange peels can be used to increase the potency of money spells, and the juice can be used to aid in divination.
Oranges are associated with the sun and are traditionally placed on altars between Yule and Litha to symbolize the return of the sun after the long winter days leading up to the winter solstice. One of my favorite winter decorations are garlands of dried orange and cranberry.
Medicinally oranges are full of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds such as vitamin C. Perhaps my first introduction to food as medicine, sea faring people used to pack oranges on ships to prevent scurvy. Surprisingly, most of the health benefiting compounds are in the peel so I include the zest as well as they juice in this recipe.
It is amusing to me that so many of our historically, worth their weight in gold spices are every bit as potent magickally as they are in taste. Then I remember that so many of our culinary appetites are directly linked to our ancestors attempts to keep us alive. Cloves fit the bill for this perfectly.
Have you ever looked at a whole clove up close before? They’re spikey little spears and so it makes sense that they have oft been associated with protective magick; banishing evil as well as illness, particularly with children. They are also strongly purifying and were frequently included in pomanders (clove studded oranges worn on ribbons or kept about the home). Historically, pomanders were gifted by wealthy Europeans to loved ones during Christmas, cementing their place in modern Yule celebrations as well. While initially worn to purify the air, pomanders quickly became associated with wealth, prosperity, and luck. Crushed cloves by themselves can be burnt to attract wealth, prosperity, and luck.
Medicinally cloves are antiseptic and anesthetic. A blessing when in any dental distress. It also supports digestion, relieving flatulence and nausea. This property alone wins clove a place at any feast or holiday at which one might overindulge.
Considered a gift from the gods, cinnamon has a wide range of magickal properties.
Associated with fire, it can be used for purification or added to other spells to speed them along with a little magickal boost.
You can protect your home by tying bundles of cinnamon together and hanging them above windows and door frames. You can burn cinnamon incense and waft its smoke around your home like sage to dispel negative energies.
Of course fire isn’t just about protection. Fire is all about heat, allowing cinnamon to inject more than a little passion into your love life, spicing up the male libido in particular.
Another area cinnamon shines is in boosting your financial situation, especially in times of need. Combine a cinnamon stick with with other prosperity herbs in your wallet to draw money and opportunity to you.
Medically, cinnamon is high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory constituents. It has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and improve the body’s ability to process insulin. It is also a well known digestive aid.
Before I knew anything of witchcraft I was drawn to star anise. It’s natural beauty is breathtaking. I knew it was magickal the very first time I saw it. Ruled by Pisces, it only makes sense that we (a Pisces myself) are bound together. And although it is not a five pointed star, I always felt as though the star anise was the witch’s natural symbol.
Star anise’s magickal attributes run strong to protection, cleansing, purification, and increasing psychic awareness. It is easy to imagine that those attributes would be well sought with the coming darkness at the end of the year which is why we so often find star anise in fall and winter decorations. Indeed, garlands of star anise hung above doors will protect your home. Carrying a star anise on your person is said to ward off the evil eye. Drinking star anise tea or burning star anise incense can increase your powers of divination, and something as simple as throwing star anise into the fire can purify your home.
On the medical and culinary side, star anise is a phenomenal digestive aid, relieving the fullness and gas of overindulgence.
The last spice on my list today is another fiery one. Ginger. Know any redheads? That’ll give you a clue into this spice’s magickal attributes.
Love, passion, sensuality, sexuality.
Abundance, Success, Prosperity.
She’s also adept at healing, protection, and adding more than a little fiery boost to other ingredients. Use ginger when you need something done NOW. A word of caution here. Ginger is a powerful tool and can easily overwhelm daintier herbs.
Just like any other overwhelming flame, ginger can get unintentionally out of hand. Or perhaps intentionally as it has also been used in retribution spells.
Go easy on this one in the spell work as well as the culinary work. Even though this is a great digestive aid, I rarely use more than a pinch or small spoonful. The kids will chew on ginger or drink the tea to relieve nausea, but then…they’re tougher witches than me.