‘Tis the season for fresh and festive cranberries and warm ovens warding off the chill of the first signs of winter. It is also one of the busiest times of the year. Between holiday parties and pageants, shopping, and family gatherings, it is hard to even think about, let alone spend much time, getting meals on the table.
This simple meatloaf variation has a surprising flavor that is refreshingly different yet familiar enough that it isn’t foreign. It requires few dishes, and it takes less than 15 minutes to prepare AND clean up the preparation mess. Then you have an hour and fifteen minutes for gift wrapping, playing with the kids, or even kicking back and relaxing while the oven does the work. Served with your choice of veggies or a salad, it is a perfectly easy and warm meal for a cold winter day.
Of course before I share the recipe I have to tell you about why cranberries are such an excellent winter-time food. Cranberries are often referred to as a super-food because they provide so many health benefits. Although the list of reasons to consume these tart berries is long, a few reasons cranberries are an ideal winter food include that they are:
- anti-inflammatory to counter the effects of busy-ness induced stress (which causes inflammation).
- high in vitamin C and have been shown to improve overall immune function.
- mental health boosters that help to relieve holiday stress, anxiety, and depression.
I love how natural foods come into season exactly when we need the specific benefits they provide. And if the amazing zing and health benefits of cranberries weren’t enough to convince me to eat them (they were…), the fact that Wisconsin, where I live, is one of the top cranberry-producing states makes them even more appealing! Finding fresh, local, organic cranberries isn’t a problem around here!
Now for the recipe…
Cranberry Pork Loaf
Ingredients for Cranberry Sauce:
2 cups organic cranberries
1/4-1/2 c. water
1 T. honey (or more to taste)
Directions for Cranberry Sauce:
Mix cranberries and water in a small sauce pan, and cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Cranberries will start to pop. Mash berries to desired consistency. (If desired consistency is completely smooth, use a blender to process. I prefer to leave mine a little chunky for flavorful cranberry pockets in the finished product.) Mix in honey. Set cranberry sauce aside.
Ingredients for Pork Loaf:
2 lbs. organic ground pork
1 ½ t. Real Salt
1 t. chili powder
1 t. garlic powder or 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. apple cider vinegar
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. mustard powder or ground mustard seeds
1/4 t. black pepper, freshly ground
cranberry sauce (reserve about ¼ cup for garnish)
Directions for Pork Loaf:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a medium sized bowl. Transfer to a loaf pan (I used a 9”x5” pan), and mold into a loaf shape. Sprinkle thyme and chili powder on top of loaf if desired. Bake for 1 hour, 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the loaf reads 170 degrees. Remove from oven and immediately spread remaining cranberry sauce over the top of the pork loaf. Cut into slices and serve hot.
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