Cranberry Sauce

I grew up with a mom who loved to buy the cranberry jello in a can for Thanksgiving. She bought both types–smooth and chunky (I don’t know what the real descriptions were…with fruit and without fruit?). Further, she put them on the table, in fancy bowls, still in the can shapes. Growing up, I really had no idea what that stuff was–it looked weird enough that I ignored it, and I certainly didn’t eat it. My sisters didn’t eat it. None of our guests ate it. My mom would eat what seemed to be a tiny smidgen of it. After Thanksgiving dinner, we would wrap them, now in can shapes with a tiny dent in each, and put them in the fridge until we thought to throw them out.

It wasn’t until I became an adult and someone asked me if we were having cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. What? Oh, yeah. The stuff in the can. I thought to myself that surely there must be a way to make the stuff at home from fresh cranberries (I was young, so these things were still new to me).

I went to my go-to cookbook for new recipes, the Joy of Cooking and voila! There was a recipe for whole cranberry sauce. It was so simple and so fresh-tasting. And it came out slightly jelled–it certainly wouldn’t hold a can shape even if I wanted it to. And it added a sweet counterpoint to the savory turkey and gravy. Delicious.

Over the years, I’ve tried all sorts of other cranberry sauces and I kept coming back to this one. It’s now a part of our Thanksgiving menu. It goes very well with the turkey and the dinner rolls and the mashed potatoes–well, OK, we kind of mix with everything on the plate. And it’s so easy to make. Also, you can make it a few days ahead of Thanksgiving (I made ours today), and it keeps quite nicely in the fridge. It’s also very good the next day on any leftover dinner rolls.

Whole Cranberry Sauce
-adapted from the Joy of Cooking

2 C granulated sugar
2 C water
4 C (1 lb) fresh cranberries–washed and picked over
2 tsp grated orange peel

Place water and sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
-place pan on medium heat and wait for the mixture to boil
-boil for 5 minutes
-carefully add the cranberries
-cook at low boil for about 15 minutes
-take off heat
-add orange peel–stir to mix

You can now put this in the fridge to keep until Thanksgiving. I usually make it the Monday before.


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  1. Amy says

    Well, I’ve jazzed my cranberry sauce up this year. I added a jar of cherry preserves, a T of creme de cassis, lemon juice, dried cranberries and finely chopped walnuts. The Secret incredient this year is a pinch of ground red pepper. Gives it a hint of heat under the tart-sweet taste.


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