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Homemade Cranberry Sauce Worth Serving

November 8, 2013  —  Written by Chris 

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Perhaps one of the least heralded parts of the Thanksgiving spread is the cranberry sauce. There it sits on a plate, in the middle of the table, oftentimes still retaining the shape of the can it was extracted from. Dinner ends, and it’s still there. Maybe someone cut a piece out of the corner, but mostly it just took up space on the table.

Enough of this, I say! Stop serving that  gelatinous red clump, and give this condiment the attention it deserves. I make this cranberry sauce every year, and I love the reactions it gets. I think it’s because people don’t understand the purpose of cranberry sauce.  Thanksgiving meals are notoriously heavy, and cranberry sauce goes a long way to brighten up each bite, cutting through the richness of all the gravies, casseroles and pies. This recipe is crazy-simple, and will make you a believer.

Here’s what you need:

• 1 bag of cranberries (put them in a strainer, rinse them, and pick out any mushy berries or stems)
• zest of 1 orange (like a tbsp)
• about a 3 inch long piece of ginger, peeled, sliced into pieces about 1/4 inch thick
• 1 cup sugar
• 12oz fresh orange juice (of you can use a store bought juice not from concentrate, like Simply Orange brand)
• 3 cinnamon sticks
• 2 apples, peeled, cored, chopped
• pinch of nutmeg

So put everything in a pan on medium low heat and simmer for like an hour. Pics:

Heads up, you want to make sure your ginger pieces are round and shaped differently from the apple. the first year I used ginger in this, I cut them about the same size as the apple, and when it came time to fish them out, I couldn’t tell the difference. A few people were lucky enough during dinner to chomp into a giant piece of ginger, which was not ideal.

So just let everything simmer for an hour, until all the berries pop and the liquid has reduced. If the liquid reduces too much, add a little water. Remove the ginger and cinnamon sticks, and mash the mixture all together with a fork, popping any berries that may not have popped yet. Give it a taste and add more sugar if needed. This may seem like a lot of sugar, but cranberries are pretty bitter, and you need the sugar to counteract that. Store it in the fridge at least overnight. Boom:

The consistency is more like a preserve than a jelly, and making it a day or two in advance will be one less thing to worry about on Thanksgiving.

What are your thoughts on cranberry sauce? Is there someone in your family who does something special with it? Or maybe you like the can-shaped version. Ain’t no shame in that! Give me the scoop and I’ll get back with ya on Monday, with the main event – the turkey. See ya then.

Links to all the posts in this series:
• Savory Cornbread Stuffing
• Scratch-Made Asparagus Casserole (my version of green bean casserole)
• Country-Style Herbed Mashed Potatoes
• Dijon Country Gravy Made with Turkey Drippings
• Homemade Cranberry Sauce Worth Serving
• Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Maple and Bacon Vinaigrette
• How to Roast the Perfect Turkey
• Buttery and Crusty Herb-Topped Dinner Rolls
• Light and Airy Pumpkin-Ricotta Cheesecake
• How to Make an Entire Thanksgiving Meal In One Oven

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What do you think?

  1. Heather says:

    I wish you would put this recipe as a printable recipe. This was awesome!!

  2. Heather says:

    What type of apples did you use??

  3. Susana says:

    My favorite—-
    Bag of cranberries
    Cup of maple syrup (the real. Stuff)
    Orange zest
    Two tablespoons raspberry jam or to taste added at the end
    Cup of walnut pieces -optional

  4. Rachel says:

    Four years later, I still make this recipe. Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Tiffany says:

    I’m making your cranberry sauce this year for Thanksgiving. What size of bag did you use for the cranberries? I picked up a 3 lb bag at Sam’s Club and after looking at it, I’m guessing you used a smaller bag – maybe 12 ounces?

    • Chris says:

      Hi Tiffany, my apologies I’m just seeing this. Just in case you plan to make it again, yes I only used a 12oz bag. 3lbs – that’s intense. haha

  6. Erin W says:

    Yum! I got here from your most recent post about Thanksgiving recipes. I whipped up a batch tonight to take with us to my in-laws tomorrow. I used my immersion blender on low to make it a little more smooth. It tastes DELICIOUS!

  7. Chris, I made this tonight with only a few slight tweaks since I was doubling it. Wonderful! I love the ginger! I’m excited to try it with all the other delicious-ness tomorrow. Thanks for sharing!

  8. How big was your bag of cranberries? There were two sizes at my grocer store.

  9. Mylena says:

    Question for those who mention relish… do you cook it at all, or are all the ingredients raw? I’m intrigued by the concept but always thought that cranberries really needed to be cooked to release their full flavour. Or is the citric acid in the orange enough to release it? I can’t get cranberries here (Belgium) at this time of year but they’ll make an appearance in the store in a few weeks’ time and I think I’d like to give a relish a go!

    • Relishes can be cooked. The difference between a jam/preserve (which is closer to mine) and a relish is that the ingredients are chopped in a relish and mixed together, whereas a jam or preserve is cooked down with a lot of sugar until everything becomes thick. Which one you choose is a balance of what you’ll be serving it with as well as personal preference, but from what I see here, all of the versions shared would be awesome. The main thing is to make sure you have enough sugar and acid to counteract the inherent bitterness in cranberries.

  10. sam says:

    I agree with the comments about cranberry-orange relish. My mom always made that for our family Thanksgivings to rave reviews, and I’ve taken over the relish-making the last few years. She always added some raspberry and gelatin as well so it was kind of a cross between a true relish and a jelly-like sauce.

  11. Mylena says:

    Another cranberry sauce lover here! My recipe is very close to yours, just lightening up on the cinnamon (only 1 small stick), no nutmeg (not a big fan) but adding my signature fall/winter flavour of star anise! 3-4 whole pods in while it cooks down and I also use maple syrup instead of sugar to sweeten it. What can I say, I’m Canadian and we love our maple syrup! :-D

    You’re definitively giving me ideas to experiment with new flavours this year though, so thanks a whole bunch Chris!

  12. I love throwing a bag of cranberries and a whole (peeled) orange, plus a healthy amount of orange zest, into the food processor and just letting it get diced. It stays pretty chunky (kind of like a relish) and is amazing with cinnamon pita chips.

  13. I absolutely agree with you about cranberry sauce providing a necessary bright contrast to the rich, heavy Thanksgiving fare. I’m personally partial to relish as opposed to sauce, though. It’s so fresh tasting, and hey, one less thing to cook. Combine 1 bag cranberries, 1 whole orange, chopped & seeds removed, and 1 cup sugar in a food processor (or go old-school with a meat grinder) until finely mixed. Best made a day ahead so the flavors marry.

  14. I am a canned cranberry sauce addict. I eat it all year long. Whenever I make mashed potatoes (almost weekly) I have a mini can of cranberry sauce. My step father is a chef and tried to make gourmet cranberry sauce for me. It was not the same and I hated it! Nostalgia is a powerful thing.

    • I love that. We all have those things, don’t we. The stuff other people don’t care for, but we just love. For me, it’s probably easy cheese. I. Love. Easy cheese. I’ll put it on any cracker, and if I gave into my REAL desires, I’d just tear through an entire can in one sitting. :)

  15. I am hosting Thanksgiving this year, and will definitely try this!

    Also, I am new to your blog, and want you to know, I love it. I came across it by searching for “easy” pad thai recipes. I have been eyeing recipes for years, but was always too intimidated to try to make it myself. The video and brief (but delicious sounding recipe) made it seem do-able! So thanks for that. I’d like to request a drunken noodle recipe also, even though I am a new reader and have no business making requests.

    – Lexy
    Tipp City, OH

    • Drunken noodles – you got it. Drunken noodles are my favorite. Really, any Thai dish with basil in it I go wild over. So good. Lot’s of stuff planned for the next couple months, but I will definitely post a drunken noodle recipe for ya. :)

    • Thanks a lot. I should also let you know that the Pad Thai came out really well. My only flub was that I let the noodles soak a bit too long. Also, no stores here are “allowed” to sell bean sprouts because of some salmonella outbreak a few years ago. Who knew?? So I also missed that texture, but will be trying out some substitutes. Can’t wait for the drunken noodle recipe, thanks again. L

  16. Jess says:

    This looks really good. I love ginger! I found a recipe for cranberry with caramelized onions that I’ve been making every year – so good and it always gets rave reviews. It’s definitely a nice balance to all the other heavy flavors of the day.
    http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/cranberry-sauce-caramelized-onions.aspx?nterms=107490

  17. Lydia says:

    I actually like the stuff in the can. The homemade versions I’ve had were made with weird things mixed in like a salad. This one looks super delicious though!

  18. I LOVE a good cranberry sauce. I may need to try this!

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