Cranberry Sauce - Three Ways


Rinse and pick over fresh cranberries


Add cinnamon sticks and orange zest to the Traditional Sauce


The orange segments before I chop them up.  I usually segment the orange
over a bowl so that all of the juice goes into the bowl and then
I put that juice in the sauce as well
photography Elizabeth Messina


I love cranberries! I keep them frozen in my freezer all year long and will pop the frozen ones in my mouth as a quick tart treat. I love cranberry juice, cranberry cake and cranberry cocktails. But the one time of year almost everyone thinks of the humble cranberry in sauce form to go with their Thanksgiving turkey.

I've made hundreds of different cranberry sauces. I vividly remember the first time I learned to make Cranberry sauce from scratch: I was in the Noone's kitchen in Alexandria, Virginia and Katie Noone Hutchison had a recipe for homemade sauce for Gourmet. She put the cranberries in the pot and the sugar with some juice or liquid and they cooked until they popped. This was one of those "key learning moments in cooking" when you go "oh, that's all there to it. This is easy!" Being in that kitchen that day gave my the key technique that lead me to an entire repertoire of fruit sauces not to mention the cranberry sauce and pork shops I invented shortly after at Marianne Heilferty's. Basically, all I had to do was cook the fruit with a little sugar, a pinch of salt, a spice and some lemon juice or orange juice and I was good to go. That really is the premise of most fruit sauces!

I realize that I frequently cook with alcohol. Many of my recipes call for port, wine, brandy, vodka, etc. I did have a few requests from people who prefer to cook without alcohol. So I've included a second recipe for Cranberry Orange Sauce that does not have any alcohol in it. The third recipe is actually a relish (and also alcohol free.) While cooked cranberry sauce has a rich deep flavor, cranberry relish has a bright and light flavor. There is also this amazing Cranberry Chutney made by Wisconsin Wilderness that my mother-in-law would buy for me in Indiana. (You can now buy it on Amazon.com. I'm still working on the test versions of my own Cranberry Chutney and when that recipe is complete I'll send it out as well.)

Here are my cranberry sauce recipes, three ways. Please be sure to read the variations and options listed at the end. All the pecan lovers will want to try the optional chopped pecans in the cranberry relish. (I'm also going to test out the new format here of writing the ingredients first, followed by the amounts. Hopefully this will help when writing a shopping list. Please let me know if you prefer the recipe written this way or not.)

October 24, 2013 edit.  I retested the Cranberry Sauce yesterday when I was cooking with Hollye and Blue.  We tried it with less sugar to see how it would turn out and we preferred it that way.  So I've edited the recipes below to reduce the sugar to only a half cup.  If you've been making my recipes for years and prefer a sweeter version then go ahead and put in one cup of sugar.  Maili 

Cranberry Port Sauce

Fresh Cranberries, 3 cups (1 12-ounce bag)
Port, 1 cup
Sugar, 1/2 cup (white or brown sugar both work. Add more sugar if you like a sweeter sauce)
Lemon Zest, from one lemon
Sea Salt, a pinch
Cinnamon Stick, 1 whole

1. In a saucepan over medium high heat, combine the cranberries, port and sugar. Turn the heat to high and cook until the skin pops on the cranberries and the sugar mixture starts bubbling. After the mixture starts to bubble, cook on medium high with the mixture bubbling for at least 1 minute.

2. Turn the heat down to low and stir in the lemon zest and the whole cinnamon stick. Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. The sauce will thicken as it cools. If you'd like a thicker sauce, reheat and cook it down even more. Sauce can be made 5-7 days in advance. If you want to keep it longer than that either can it in canning jars following normal heat processing procedures for canning or freeze it.


Traditional Cranberry Orange Sauce

Fresh Cranberries, 3 cups (1 12-ounce bag)
Orange Zest, from one orange, optional
Orange Juice, about 1/2 cup (I usually just squeeze the juice from orange I cut the segments from)
Orange Segments, (see picture above) no membrane, chopped up
Sugar, 1/2 cup (white or brown sugar both work. Add more sugar if you like a sweeter sauce)
Sea Salt or Kosher Salt, a pinch
Cinnamon Stick, 2 whole
Red Pepper Flakes, 1/4 teaspoon 

1. Combine the cranberries, orange juice, orange pieces, sugar and pinch of salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to high and cook until the skin pops on the cranberries and the sugar mixture starts bubbling. After the mixture starts to bubble, cook on medium high with the mixture bubbling for at least 1 minute.

2. Turn the heat down to low and stir in the orange zest, whole cinnamon stick, star anise and the jalapeno. Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. The sauce will thicken as it cools. If you'd like a thicker sauce, reheat and cook it down even more. Sauce can be made 5-7 days in advance. If you want to keep it longer than that either can it in canning jars following normal heat processing procedures for canning or freeze it.

Variations for both the Cranberry Port Sauce or Cranberry Orange Sauce: The possibilities and variations are endless but unless you are making chutney, try not to include more than three of the following options. When you add too many spices or flavors the sauce tends to be muddy. In general simple is better. Chose either one solo star or chose a flavor to play the lead with only two supporting roles. So in general a maximum of three flavors. Here are a few options to get you started: candied ginger, fresh ginger, ground ginger, lemon zest, orange zest, tangerine zest, tangerine segments, mandarin oranges, cranberry juice, orange juice, dried apricots, dried cherries, dried cranberries, raisins, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, allspice, chipotle in adobo, fresh minced jalapeno, canned roasted jalapeno, dried red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, balsamic vinegar.



Cranberry Orange Relish (not-cooked)

Fresh Cranberries, 3 cups (1 12-ounce bag)
Oranges, two, peeled seeded and free of membrane.
Orange Zest, from one of the oranges, optional
Sugar, 2 cups white sugar (brown will not work as well in the food processor)
Sea Salt, a pinch
Roasted Pecans, 1 cup, chopped (optional)

1. Combine everything in food processor and hit blend. This never lasts long enough for me to know how far it will last. But I would imagine it will hold for at least three days and probably five in the refrigerator.

2. If adding the roasted pecans, stir them in just before serving so they will retain some crunch.

(Be sure to check out my recipe testers blog for my friend Alicia's Cranberry Salad recipe. www.recipetesters.blogspot.com
That is where I post recipes from friends and the recipe testers that you send to me.)


Comments

Meesh said…
Can't wait to make these!
JoAnn said…
I have never had a sauce or relish that is as good as the simple uncooked one.

Have you ever made sugared cranberries (I think they go by many names)? I am going to try them this Christmas..........fully understanding that they are addictive!!!
Maili said…
JoAnn, I agree with you that the simple uncooked one is probably the best. I truly love them all because I love anything with cranberries, but isn't it amazing how simple is often the best!

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