The Supper Club: Homemade Cranberry Sauce Three Ways

You’d think you’d be able to track down a bag of fresh cranberries at the grocery store for more than a few weeks a year, what with all this cranberry juice running amuck in countless mixed drinks and mediocre breakfast buffets all across the country. Sadly this is only one of our culture’s many ills (watch the news, people!), so now is the moment to strike!

Food outlets everywhere are guaranteed to pile 12-ounce bags of fresh cranberries in random bins around their produce department because of Thanksgiving, without even realizing that cranberry sauce is a delicious side dish and/or condiment in its own right. You can be *thankful* that you are aware of this fact and know how to whip up a batch of brightly colored and brightly flavored cranberry sauce without any effort. I’ve included both classic and more “progressive” options, each as simple as simmering all ingredients for as long as it would take you to jiggle that canned cranberry mass free from its vacuum seal to the can.

This dish is a good one to bring to any old potluck in order to open up the minds of citizens and let the tart goodness of cranberry sauce flow in, remembering availability constraints, of course. While turkey is not an essential pairing, it does go best with poultry or most vegetarian mains rather than beef. It’s obviously applicable to on-campus Thanksgiving festivities as well as your family celebration, where you can show everyone how much you’ve come into your own when it comes to culinary pizazz. You might even get some cranberry converts. Nothing tastes better than a holiday feast and an “I told you so.”

Jen Cantin recently graduated from Clark University in Worcester, Mass. with a degree in English and Journalism. She shares other (a)musings at Deep Fried Epiphany and dedicates this post to the Pilgrim Roll-Up at Funky Murphy’s in Worcester. Best Thanksgiving-themed sandwich she has ever eaten on 10 or so separate occasions.


The sweetness of each of these recipes can be adjusted to your preference by tasting towards the end of cooking and stirring in some more sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time. Although the sauces will thicken a bit as they cool, if you desire a thicker, more syrupy sauce, cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. This will also cause more of the berries to burst resulting in a smoother sauce. The times listed are for fresh cranberries, but you can use frozen as well, adding a few minutes to the cooking time; no need to defrost first. Sauces can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature, and can be made up to a couple days ahead. Lastly, note that the photos represent only half of each recipe.

Classic Cranberry Sauce
Serves 4 as side dish

One 12-ounce bag cranberries, fresh or frozen (see note above)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water or orange juice

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries start to burst and sauce thickens, about 10-15 minutes.

Intensely Flavored Cranberry Orange Sauce
Serves 4 as side dish
Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence

One 12-ounce bag cranberries, fresh or frozen (see note above)
1 orange, half of zest peeled with vegetable peeler, entire thing juiced
3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick (optional: adds another layer of flavor, but not fully necessary)

Combine all the ingredients into a medium saucepan over medium heat  and simmer, stirring occasionally,  until cranberries start to burst and sauce thickens, about 10-15 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and orange zest strips before serving.

Smoky-Spicy-Savory Cranberry Sauce
Serves 4 as side dish
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

If you don’t like spicy foods, you can omit the chipotle to get more of a classic sauce with a savory edge. If you do include it, watch out for the seeds — they are where most of the spiciness resides!

One chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, available in small cans in the Latin foods aisle of most supermarkets; each can contains about 5 individual peppers
One 12-ounce bag cranberries, fresh or frozen (see note above)
1 1/3 cups sugar
3-5 tablespoons lemon juice or water
1 small garlic clove, chopped
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cumin

Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add additional tablespoon(s) of lemon juice or water if mixture seems to dry and sugar starts to burn. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries start to burst and sauce thickens, about 10-15 minutes.

Originally posted on Thursday, November 10th, 2011

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