Cranberry sauce is an essential Thanksgiving side dish. I am so accustomed to eating turkey with cranberry sauce it is hard to imagine serving turkey without it. Of all the side dishes made for this yearly feast, it is one of the easiest. The sauce takes about 20 minutes tops to prepare, then chills in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. It is so quick and easy, I do not understand why more people don’t make it. The canned sauce is convenient, but there is no comparison to homemade cranberry sauce.
As a kid, I knew there must be a better alternative to the canned sauce. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, Mom proudly displayed the solid jellied cranberry sauce on its’ own plate. It’s cylinder shape and distinctive ribbed markings revealed its canned origin and was futile to disguise it. As each person reached over to slice off sections of the jellied cranberry cylinder, one never knew where it would roll. It slid around so much, we needed an extra utensil to hold it still. More times than not you heard the distinctive thwack of a knife hitting the plate when it slipped off the cranberry sauce. I never knew if it was going to slide away and knock over the gravy boat.
Passing the cranberry sauce around the table was challenging as well. It took adept balancing skills to keep it from rolling off the plate and landing on your lap. Every holiday as each family member carefully carved out their portion, I secretly chuckled to myself wondering if this was the year the cranberry sauce got away.
I am happy to say, eating canned cranberry sauce did not turn me off this condiment for good. I did like it, but I wanted something fresher. Once I was on my own, I did not waste time and quickly learned to make it from scratch. In fact, I learned how to make homemade sauce before I learned how to roast a turkey. In my opinion, homemade cranberry sauce is key to tying the whole meal together.
Whenever I host Thanksgiving it is for a large crowd of 30 family members. Everyone contributes a dish for this feast. The cranberry sauce must compliment every and any side dish in the buffet. As a result, my recipe does not have a lot of different herbs, spices or alcohol, but offers the classic pairing of tart cranberries with bitter-sweet orange zest and marmalade. This combination of bittersweet flavors goes with everything.
More holiday side dishes: My Favorite Stuffing Recipe
I believe the original recipe comes from Bon Appetit magazine, probably around the early 1990’s. The publisher and author information are missing, but I believe this is an accurate guess since I subscribed to Bon Appetit at the time. I made one small change to the original.
The original recipe includes frozen concentrated cranberry juice cocktail. Unfortunately, finding frozen cranberry juice is getting harder and harder with each passing year. As a result, I make it one of two ways: reduce 2 cups of cranberry juice to one cup, or just add one cup of regular cranberry juice. Either way the cranberry sauce has a deep red color with tart cranberry flavor. If you can find frozen cranberry juice, feel free to use it.
I call it Triple C Cranberry sauce because it has three different cranberry ingredients, fresh cranberries, dried cranberries, and cranberry juice. It also has three layers of orange flavorings, orange zest, orange juice and orange marmalade. Altogether these 2 x triple layers of cranberries and oranges, makes a tart and fruity cranberry sauce with a touch of sweetness for balance. It is not too thick or too thin, and spoons easily over your Thanksgiving meal. I promise, this cranberry sauce won’t roll away.
Triple C Cranberry Sauce
- 1 cup (250 ml) cranberry juice, or frozen juice concentrate thawed
- 1/3 cup (75 ml) sugar
- 1- 12 oz (350 g) package of fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) dried cranberries
- 3 TB orange marmalade
- 2 TB orange zest
- 2 TB fresh orange juice
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice
Add the cranberry juice and sugar into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat to medium and add the fresh or frozen cranberries, and the dried cranberries to the juice. Stir and cook until the cranberries begin to pop, about 5 - 7 minutes. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes to reach the desired texture of popped cranberries to whole ones. I think it is nice to have an even ratio of both.
Turn off the heat, and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to evenly combine.
Pour the cranberry sauce into a storage container and cool. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.
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