homemade holiday cranberry sauce is sweet and tangy
People are finicky about cranberry sauce. I think it heralds back to what they grew up on and what they’re used to. In our family, it was two extremes. Thanksgiving at my paternal grandparents meant Myne’s “famous” cranberry relish. I think it came from the Cuisinart cookbook – she would combine a bag of cranberries with a whole orange (peel and all), some sugar and nuts – I think walnuts or pecans — and zhuzsh them around in the cuisinart until it resembled a chunky relish. My child’s mind couldn’t get away from the fact that she didn’t peel the orange.
At my maternal grandparents house, it was a completely different story. They are from Martinique in the Caribbean. Thanksgiving wasn’t a holiday they celebrated growing up, so there were no personal connections as to what to make. They did what many Americans did, they bought that can of Ocean Spray Cranberry sauce, opened one end and waited for it to slurp and slide out of the can. They may have sliced it to serve, I really can’t recall (kind of a self preservation thing — blocking particularly painful memories).
Either way, cranberry sauce or relish – this obligatory side dish was, to me, a culinary dead zone on our Thanksgiving tables. I would take a little — because I had to, but I never went back for more.
When I started hosting my own Thanksgivings, I decided that my cranberry sauce would be different. It would be something spicy and tangy and sweet. Something that would get eaten on that day, and if there were leftovers, they would be added to a turkey sandwich, or swirled into plain yogurt, or just eaten with a spoon right from the tupperware container (I may have done that).
I tried several incarnations of cranberry sauce from the simplest (on the back of the cranberry bag) to ones that called for all kinds of fruit and nut combinations. Then, I found a recipe in Bon Appetit magazine — and have been making a version of it for every Thanksgiving holiday since. It’s sweet, but not cloying, it’s spicy — but not overly so and instead of watering it down with, well, water — it calls for wine. Pick me! Pick me!
It’s crazy good! I know I’m not going to turn you can-happy-cranberry-sauce-lovers into devotees of homemade, but for the sake of the other diners — You must, must, must make this!
I admit that after I took this picture (above) I stuck the spoon right into my mouth! I’m going to have to make another batch for Thanksgiving.
- 1 1/2 cups red wine (I like a red zinfandel or syrah)
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup packed golden brown sugar
- 6 whole cloves
- 6 whole allspice berries
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 slices fresh ginger, cut crosswise
- 1 3x1 inch strip orange or tangerine peel (I used tangerine)
- 1 12 ounce bag fresh cranberries
- kitchen string
- Cut a square piece of cheesecloth about 7". Cut a piece of kitchen string about 3 inches long.
- In the center of the cheesecloth combine the cloves, allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, ginger and orange peel. Gather the sides together and tie the kitchen string in a knot to secure.
- In a medium saucepan add the cranberries, sugars, wine, and spice bag.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Fish out the spice bag and discard. Transfer the sauce to a bowl or container and refrigerate until cold. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
- Can be made one week ahead of time.