Sunday, November 11, 2012

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Mint Garnish in White Ramekin, Overhead View on Black

Ditch the Canned and Discover Real Flavor

Cranberry sauce is a staple of Thanksgiving tables.  And why not?  Cranberries in their natural state may be too tart to take, but adding sugar mellows their flavor into something seductively good. 

Plus, cranberry sauce combines so well with those other Thanksgiving standbys:  turkey, gravy, and stuffing.  And for many people, it’s an obligatory ingredient in (or at least, accompaniment to) day-after turkey sandwiches. 

But when was the last time you made your own cranberry sauce?  Maybe never, if you’re like most of us.  It’s so easy to buy the commercial canned stuff.  And because cranberry sauce is often a supermarket loss leader at this time of the year, the cans may actually be a pretty good deal — at least from a financial standpoint. 

How about from a flavor standpoint?  Well, let’s not even go there.  Instead, I’ll just tell you how quick and easy it is to make your own cranberry sauce at home.  (Hint:  15 minutes, tops.  Plus time to chill in the fridge.)

The only drawback is, you won’t have those little groove marks from the can. 



Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Mint Garnish

Recipe:  Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce is nothing more than cranberries simmered with water and sugar.  That’s really the entire recipe.  You can add some orange if you like, or other ingredients (see Notes), but they just gild the lily.

I like my sauce on the chunky side, so I cook it a bit over 5 minutes.  If you want something smoother, cook longer.  If you want totally smooth cranberry jelly (with no chunks), this isn’t the recipe for you; but I do offer some tips in the Notes. 

I also like my sauce on the runny side, so my ingredient quantities reflect that.  If you prefer a gel consistency, use less water and more sugar (see Notes).

This recipe makes about 3 cups of sauce, and takes about 15 minutes of active time.  Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week.

Ingredients
  • 1 package fresh cranberries (12 ounces; standard packages used to be 16 ounces not that long ago)
  • 2 cups water (if you want a sauce that gels better, use 1½ cups; see Notes)
  • 1½ cups sugar (if you want a more tart sauce, reduce to 1 cup; if you prefer it sweeter — and thicker — increase to 2 cups)
  • mint leaves for garnish (very optional, although attractive)
Procedure
  1. Dump the cranberries into a colander or sieve, and rinse them off.  Pick over and remove any soft or discolored berries.
  2. Place berries in a 2-quart sauce pan, then add water and sugar.  Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat to medium-low.  (When cranberries approach boiling temperature, they have a tendency to overflow the pan, so be attentive.)
  3. Simmer for 5 minutes.  At this point, the cranberries will begin to become translucent and their skins will begin to split open, although most will still remain whole.  The berries will be just soft (test one to make sure).  If you want even softer cranberries, cook longer — up to 10 or 15 minutes.  Typically, I cook mine for 7 or 8 minutes.
  4. Skim any scum from the sauce and discard it.  Pour the cranberry sauce into a serving dish and allow to cool at room temperature.  Refrigerate sauce for at least one hour before serving (cover with shrink wrap if it’s going to be longer than an hour).  If you wish, garnish with mint leaves before serving.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Mint Garnish

Notes
  • This recipe yields a sauce that’s more liquid than gel.  For a firm gel, reduce the amount of water to 1½ cups, and increase the quantity of sugar to 2 cups.
  • Here’s a quick way to make jellied cranberry sauce:  Bring the cranberries to a boil without sugar.  Then put them through a food mill or whirl in a food processor.  Once the cranberries are reduced to mush, return them to the pot, add sugar, and cook for 10 minutes or so.
  • Like orange flavoring in your cranberry sauce?  At Step 4, add the zest of 1 orange.
  • Some people substitute orange juice for water in this recipe (use 1 to 1½ cups of OJ).
  • I always use white sugar, but you can try substituting brown sugar or honey.
  • I’ve seen recipes that add a bit of dark rum (maybe 2 ounces).  Sounds like a fun idea, and one I’ll probably try at some point.
  • You can experiment with adding spices to your cranberry sauce.  Cinnamon is an obvious choice, but black pepper or other spices might be fun, too.  I haven’t tried this, but I’d start with a teaspoon (add along with the sugar), and then add more if necessary.
  • A lot of people like to put cranberry sauce in a fancy mold, and then unmold it before serving.  If that’s you, make the sauce using 1½ cups of water and 2 cups of sugar.  Rinse the mold with cold water before using.  Then in Step 4, pour the cranberry sauce into the mold rather than into a serving dish, and chill.
  • I sometimes like to serve cranberry sauce in individual dishes (usually ramekins). 
Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Mint Garnish

Thanksgiving: It’s About to Happen

Thanksgiving day will be here in under 2 weeks. Time to get prepared.

I haven’t yet posted a recipe for roast turkey, but no problem. I use the same procedure as for Roast Chicken. Just cook the turkey a bit longer. For me, a 12-pounder usually takes under two hours (the high-heat method I use really speeds things up).

You want side dishes? Well, this post on Cranberry Sauce is a good place to start. Or how about Cranberry Relish with Jalapeño? It’s a spicy remake of the traditional cranberry relish most people know.

Sweet potatoes (yams) are a Thanksgiving must-have. One of my favorite ways to prepare them is Roast Sweet Potatoes. (A lot of people seem to agree, by the way — this is the second most popular post of all time on Kitchen Riffs.)

Other roast veggies would be great on a Thanksgiving table, too. Like Roast Potatoes. Or Roast Cauliflower, Roast Asparagus, Roast Eggplant, or even Roast Belgian Endive.

We usually like to pass around Baking Powder Biscuits with our big meal. Or you might want to make a nice boule using Mrs. Kitchen Riffs’ recipe for Easy No-Knead Bread.

Our dessert tradition is pumpkin pie (another recipe I owe you). But an interesting seasonal alternative might be Grape Flaugnarde (Flan).

To accompany the festive meal, there’s no better beverage than Beaujolais Nouveau. The name means “new Beaujolais,” and that’s exactly what it is: A very young wine, released just weeks after the harvest. It always hits the market on the third Thursday of November — just in time for Thanksgiving! It’s fruity (without being too sweet) and perfectly complements every dish on the table. It’s also relatively inexpensive — usually $9 to $12 per bottle.

For sipping before dinner, you might want to consider the Classic Champagne Cocktail. Or perhaps Eggnog.

Programming Note

I had hoped to share more seasonal recipes with you this week and next, but this morning I received some bad news — my mother died.  Although she was suffering from a grave illness, the suddenness of her death was unexpected.  This post was already completed, but I’ve rewritten the ending.  Some of the dishes I hoped to post about just aren’t going to happen right now.  I have things to do that will move blogging way down on my list of priorities in the short term. 

I probably won’t post again until next week at the earliest.  And alas, much as I enjoy visiting other people’s blogs, I’ll be absent from those for a week or so too.  I hope you understand.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Cranberry Relish with Jalapeño
Roast Sweet Potatoes
Roast Potatoes
Roast Cauliflower
Roast Asparagus
Roast Eggplant
Roast Belgian Endive
Baking Powder Biscuits
Easy No-Knead Bread
Grape Flaugnarde (Flan)
Roast Chicken
Beaujolais Nouveau
Classic Champagne Cocktail
Eggnog

93 comments:

  1. Wow this looks delicious!!! I love the "ditch the can" idea, fresh and homemade is always sooo much better :) I want to make this for Thanksgiving this year to add to my mom's table, thanks!

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    1. Hi Kristi, it's really quite nice. The canned is everywhere, but the fresh is so much better. You really won't go back after you try this.

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  2. Oh dear, I just read the programming note at the bottom of the page. I am so sorry to hear this sad news :( Take some time for yourself, you need it right now... Sending thoughts and prayers your way

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    1. Hi Kristi, no worries. And thanks for your kind words.

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  3. I am so sorry to hear about your mother. Take care and we will see you when you return. I will send my prayers and thoughts to you and your family.

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  4. I am so sorry about your mom's sudden passing. :( My condolences to you and your family - I will keep you in my thoughts.

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    1. Hi Alyssa, thank you - I appreciate your kindness.

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  5. oh I'm so sorry to hear about your mother. My heart (and my prayers) go out to you and all your family.

    We'll all be thinking of you and waiting upon your return.

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    1. Hi Maureen, thanks. I should be back next week.

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  6. John, I'm very sorry to hear the news. You have all of our deepest sympathies, and you're definitely foremost in my thoughts. I do appreciate you taking the time to post this, though, and I hope you'll take the time to collect all of your own thoughts during this difficult time. Deepest sympathies.

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    1. Hi Ala, I really appreciate your thoughts. Thank you.

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  7. Secretly? I loved the grooves from the can as a kid. Now it would never cross my mind to buy cranberry sauce since as you point out its so simple to make. Scrolling down your 'with jalapeno' version caught my eye. Going there now...

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    1. Hi Toni, the grooves are pretty, well, groovy, I admit. ;-) But your own is so much better, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.

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  8. It may sound a bit dumb, but I am not sure if I know this fruit. My mum got me some in May when I was in europe. They were new to me and apparently to the region as well and they called it cranberry also in German. For some reason wikipedia is showing me that those berries are Blueberries in the german wiki. Do these cranberries get Blue? I always see them in red online.

    Anyway... your sauce sounds super delicious, I can imagine it so well with Chicken. I don't know about turkey cause I have never had any. Your world and thanksgiving are so exotic to me. ^.^

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    1. Hi Helene, I don't believe cranberries are ever blue. These would be great with chicken, but one of the better flavor pairings is with pork - well worth trying. Thanks for the comment.

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    2. so wikipedia is writing the wrong thing. Thanks for clearing that up! ;) I bet they are nice with meat such as pork, as you mentioned because of the acidity amounts.

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    3. Hi Helene, I suspect Wikipedia is correct and I'm wrong! I've just never seen blue ones, and they're certainly not common in the US. But I just went and read the entire Wikipedia entry on cranberries, and they do mention some get blue, so there we are. I hadn't thought about it, but I'll bet the acid is what combines so nicely with pork. Cranberries and pork is really a lovely combination - my favorite way to serve cranberries, actually.

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  9. Growing up we never ate canned fruits or vegetables. My dad went grocery shopping nearly every day and made fresh, delicious dinner. But at Thanksgiving, it was always canned, jellied cranberry sauce. As an adult I started making my own and bringing it to Thanksgiving - but I swear it still can't compete with the canned in their eyes! Some things never change. Now in Israel cranberries are hard to come by, but should I find some I'm making this!

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    1. Hi Katherine, the canned has a certain texture that I think people really dig! Weird, huh? Thanks for the comment.

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  10. Oh, Mr. Kitchen Riffs, I am soo sorry. Take care of yourself and we will be missing you until your return. My condolences to you and your family. As I make your special recipes and drink the eggnog that I still have from last year, I will be sending good thoughts and happy memories your way.

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    1. Hi Abbe, thanks — I appreciate your thoughts. I'll be back next week. I can't believe you still have some eggnog left! How does it taste after being aged all this time?

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  11. I'm with you I only make homemade, it's quick, easy and delicious. My recipe is like yours only I use fresh on in place of water.

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    1. Hi Vicki, the homemade is definitely nicer, isn't it? Good stuff. Thanks for the comment.

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  12. For this I will definitely ditch the canned :D
    Looks gorgeous!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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    1. Hi Uru, ditching the canned is usually a good idea! Thanks for the comment.

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  13. Never in a million year would I think of making a homemade cranberry sauce. But OMG see how easy and simple that was.
    No more canned cranberry sauce this thanksgiving... Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family,
    xo,
    Malou

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    1. Hi Malou, it's really easy to make, isn't it? Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

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  14. and oh, I forgot to add... I'd like to extend my condolences to you and your family as well. So sorry to hear about your mom's untimely death :(

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  15. I'm sorry to hear about your mother...my condolences to you and your loved ones. I too, lost my mother, in July...

    Take your time and take care.

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    1. Hi Sarah, thank you. And I'm sorry about the loss of your mother, too. I should be back next week.

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  16. I'm so very sorry to hear about you mom.

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  17. I'm so sorry to hear about your mother. My heartfelt condolences and prayers to you and all your family. We'll be here when you return. Take good care meantime.

    Great cranberry sauce recipe!

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    1. Hi Nami, thank you. I appreciate your kind words. And yes, the cranberry sauce is really good stuff!

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  18. I'm so sorry to hear this news. My condolences to you and your family. I have lost my mum 8 years ago and I'm still thinking about the moment that it happened... It is never easy facing this situation. Take your time and take care.

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    1. Hi Zoe, thank you. It's always hard losing people, even we all know it's going to happen, isn't it? I appreciate your kind words.

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  19. Dear John and Mrs.KR, sorry to hear about your loss. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

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    1. Hi Marina, you're so kind — thank you very much.

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  20. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss.. Thanksgiving will be bittersweet for you this year. Take care. xx

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    1. Hi Just a Smidgen, thank you. Thanksgiving will be different this years, that's for sure. But my mom loved all holidays, so it's also a great way to remember.

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  21. Mr. and Mrs., I am very sorry about the loss of your mom.

    Thank you for sharing your delicious recipes! And especially the cranberry sauce in the middle of everything you have going on.

    Kindly,
    judy

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    1. Hi Judy, thank you so much for your kind words. I appreciate you taking the time. And I'm glad you find my recipes enjoyable!

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  22. I hope you take plenty of time for yourself at this awful time. It's too easy to look after everyone else and forget about yourself. My heart goes out to you.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, thank you so much. I appreciate your very kind thoughts.

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  23. Cranberry sauce is my all time favorite holiday side dish! My grandma always made her special cranberry sauce Thanksgiving and on Christmas. This year I for sure plan to make her lovely recipe, I miss it:-) Thank you for sharing your recipe, I love finding fun new recipes! Take care, Terra

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    1. Hi Terra, isn't cranberry anything good? I'm partial to relish, actually, but a simple sauce recipe is so good. Thanks for your comment.

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  24. There is no comparison between storebought and homemade! Years ago when I made it for the first time, I never bought it again (except as a joke one year for my BIL). As you show here, it's so simple and SO good! Simple and delicious recipe! Love the idea of serving it in ramekins! I WILL be doing that this year. Thanks for this post!

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    1. Hi MJ, I agree the two aren't really in the same ballpark. The ramekins are always a lot of fun, and the white of the ramekin contrasts so nicely with the red of the cranberry sauce. Thanks for the comment.

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  25. You know, John. Every November we're flooded with cranberry recipes featuring all kinds of fruit and other additives. I've always made mine just as you have here, altering the sugar content to suit my mood. It's very well-received and, when I host, I have to make double so there's enough for the take-home bags. (I'll never forget that again!) And it sure does help to make a great sandwich around midnight. :)

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    1. Hi John, pure cranberries (with sugar) are such a taste treat. I do like them with orange, too, but they are totally great just as presented here. And that midnight sandwich is mighty important! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  26. John, so so very sorry to hear about the loss of your mother. Please accept the most sincere condolences from a stranger out here,for you, your wife and your whole family. I am sure, there will be many prayers said.
    Forget the blogging for a while - we, who are your followers, will gladly wait until you are good and ready to return, but you will be missed nevertheless. Take care and 'see you whenever'. Ciao Carina

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    1. Hi Carina, thanks so much. I really do appreciate your kind words. I'll be getting back in the swing of blogging again next week.

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  27. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear about your mother's death. My thoughts and prayers, and I'm sure those of my fellow bloggers, will be with you. Take care, John.

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    1. Hi Beth, you're so kind. Thank you so very much.

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  28. I am so sorry for your mother :( Don't have many words for this kind of loss..
    Wish you and your family strength!

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    1. Hi Ilke, I always find it hard to express thoughts at a time like this too. I truly appreciate your kind words — they're helpful.

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  29. So sorry for your family's loss. Sending positive thoughts this Thanksgiving.

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    1. Hi Lawyer Loves Lunch, thank you so much. I appreciate the positive thoughts.

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  30. I will be thinking of you and your family in this difficult time.

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    1. Hi Karen, thank you so much — I appreciate it.

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  31. The cranberry sauce from scratch sure looks great...much better than the cans one...
    I am sorry to hear about your loss...my thoughts are with you and your family in this difficult time.
    Take care!

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    1. Hi Juliana, it's a great recipe - truly tasty. And way better than the canned stuff. Thanks so much for your very kind words.

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  32. I'm just reading the end of this a saw that your mom passed away. I am so sorry John. Take care.

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    1. Hi Vicki, thanks so much — I appreciate your kind words.

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  33. I am sorry about your Mom, John, having lost my own mother this summer I know how busy you will be. While I always loved the canned, whole berry cranberry sauces I now make my own from scratch since they are so dead easy. Interesting modifications (not necessarily all at the same time)include wine, jalapenos, coriander, cardamom or even a little cumin.

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    1. Hi Food Junkie, thanks so much for your kind words. And I'm sorry for your loss, too. And the canned cranberry sauce does have a kind of appeal - it's pretty good with Jello, for example (a recipe I need to do someday). And it's certainly a recipe that lends itself to experimentation!

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  34. The sauce looks amazing! Home made is so much better than store bought. So sorry to hear about your loss. Take care.

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    1. Hi Asmita, the homemade is really quite good - and quite different from the canned. Thanks for your kind words.

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  35. My dearest John, My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family at this difficult time. Take Care of your self and give yourself some time to rest. BAM

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    1. Hi Bam, thanks so much for your kind thoughts. I appreciate the sentiment.

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  36. Very sorry to hear about your loss. I hope you and your family can offer comfort to one another in this sad time.

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    1. Hi Terry, thank you so much. I appreciate your kindness.

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  37. I am very sorry for your loss. I lost my father a few years ago and I couldn't even describe into any word how I felt. My deepest condolences and prayers are with you and your family. Your cranberry sauce looks very nice. Just what I need for this Thanksgiving.

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    1. Hi Holly, thanks for your condolences — I appreciate them. And yes, the cranberry sauce is quite nice! You'll enjoy it.

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  38. I've been out of blogosphere for quite sometime but it feels good to be back. I've missed out so many of your great recipes but I'll be sure to check them all out. The cranberry sauce looks absolutely amazing and I am sure it will become handy when i have to host a real Thanksgiving dinner (for know i enjoy being a guest)!
    I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Please take care of yourself and I look forward to your return.

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    1. Hi Yi, I've missed your posts! Glad you're back to blogging. I'll be checking out your blog sometime this week. Also, thanks for your kind words. I'll be posting sometime this week, and the week after that will be back to my usual schedule of posting twice a week.

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  39. This looks like a good topping for a cheese cake!

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    1. Hi Raymund, I never thought of using this as a topping! Great idea, though - it'd be perfect for that. Thanks for the comment.

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  40. I have never used real fresh cranberries for my sauce, I always use frozen. You are right they can be quite tricky when they want to boil, I usually put them in a huge saucepan, just in case I turn my back at the wrong moment.

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    1. Hi Lizzie, that huge saucepan is a really good idea! It always seems like when you decide to turn your back for "just a second" that they decide to come to a boil. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  41. Of course it's a good idea and would go great with my coffee crepes :)

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    1. Hi Marta, these would be great for one of your breakfast goodies! Thanks for the comment.

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  42. This is the first year I haven't made homemade cranberry sauce. It was just us this year so I decided to make prime rib ;-) But your version is exactly how I like to make it - straight cranberry & sugar, nothing else. I've made so many different kinds but simple is always the best!

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    1. Hi Kristy, straight cranberries and sugar is the best combo going! And I agree that this isn't a natural with prime rib. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  43. You are a real inspiration! I've been really getting into making homemade ice creams and jams...but never thought of using cranberries to make cranberry sauce..definitely ditching the can is good!

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    1. Hi Jenny, a cranberry ice cream might be a really good thing! Worth trying. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  44. I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your mother. Even when expected, it must be unimaginably difficult to go through. My deepest condolences for your loss.

    As for this lovely looking sauce, I don't think I've even seen fresh cranberries in Australia! Although we do have frozen I believe. I guess it must be difficult to cultivate them here..

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    1. Hi Christine, thanks for your kind words about my mom. As for the cranberry sauce, don't worry about not having fresh - frozen work perfectly well. I'll often buy several bags and freeze them, then thaw them throughout the year. Thanks for commenting.

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  45. You know the way to this girls tummy...cranberry relish made from scratch is the best, and a staple at my holiday table. I add the juice and zest from one orange and a cinnamon stick to spice up my recipe. Simply made a replete with holiday flavors from my past!

    I'm sorry to hear about the recent loss of your mother. My prayers are with you and yours!

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    1. Hi Rebecka, thanks for the kind words about my mom. And isn't homemade cranberry relish the best? Cinnamon sounds like a terrific idea - I haven't tried that. Thanks for the comment.

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