When the leaves twist and turn and fall into colourful piles, waiting for boots to crunch their way through, it’s time to prepare for comfort food simmering on the stove. Years ago we started a tradition for Thanksgiving and Christmas that Young Fresh Chef and I make a batch of homemade cranberry sauce. Mostly I do the prepping and cooking and he just lets me know when it is sweet enough. I had always been a fan of the canned variety, piling it on turkey sandwiches and maybe even eating a spoonful on the sly.
But when you look at the ingredient list on the can it is short and sweet: CRANBERRIES, GLUCOSE-FRUCTOSE, GLUCOSE, WATER. I knew I could do better. I researched recipes years ago and I took the bits and pieces that appealed to me and created my ultimate cranberry sauce! The least daunting of the traditional turkey accompaniments, it’s a great take along if you are invited to a holiday feast.
Living in the heart of B.C.’s cranberry country, I can usually buy cranberries in the Fall, fresh from the bog, at the local Farmers’ Market. They are also easy to find in the produce section in your grocery store this time of year. I usually pick up some extra to fill a vase or pile around a pillar candle for a centre-piece.
Once you have the cranberries, next come the seasonings, and while it is necessary to add some sweetener to balance out the pucker inducing tartness of the berries, you can also add some holiday spice to add layers of flavour. The key to keeping it on the savoury side instead of being jelly is bay leaf and white peppercorns. By placing the smaller spices in a tea ball (or a cheese cloth pouch) you don’t have to fish them out individually, or wonder where that last clove is hiding.
While cranberry sauce completes the holiday table and elevates turkey to a special occasion, it’s also great mixed in with yogurt and granola, slathered on a peanut butter sandwich or maybe just a straight spoonful or two!
Recipe for Spiced Cranberry Sauce
1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries
1 3/4 cups apple cider or juice
3/4 cup honey (or other sweetener to taste)
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
zest of 1 unsprayed/organic orange
3 whole cloves
4 white or black whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 piece of nutmeg seed (optional)
1 thread of mace (optional)
1 allspice berry (optional)
1 star anise pod (optional)
3 cardamom pods (optional)
1 piece crystallized ginger (optional)
salt to taste
1. Place small spices in a tea ball or make a cheesecloth pouch tied with string.
2. Place all ingredients in heavy large saucepan.
3. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
4. Simmer until berries burst and sauce thickens, stirring occasionally (about 20-25 minutes).
5. Remove cinnamon stick, bay leaves and spices.
6. Allow to cool, the sauce will thicken up even more.
7. Refrigerate sauce until cold.
8. Serve with turkey, or yogurt or swirl into muffin batter!
The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.
Share your favourite homemade holiday tradition in the comments.