Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cranberry sauce you'll gobble up

This cranberry sauce? Right up there? Oh my god, you guys. This sauce is awesome.

Now, I could do a whole intro-to-the-recipe thing about how I never liked cranberries, but when I first got married and started making Thanksgiving dinners, I felt like it was important to include as many traditional foods as possible, and how I found this particular recipe in Sunset magazine (which I used to be completely in love with, despite there being essentially no relationship between it and the reality of my life) and tried it because it was one of the few recipes they had that didn't involve some technique or ingredient I'd never heard of, and then fell completely in love, said love being eclipsed, however, by Baroy's love for it. (He eats it by the heaping tablespoon, all by itself.) But I'm not going to tell that story...OK, I'm not going to tell any MORE of that story.

Instead, I'm just going to say this: Cranberry sauce can be something more than an overlooked, out-of-the-can accompaniment to the turkey and a potential stain on that special white linen tablecloth. No, seriously. This stuff? It's goooood. It's noticeably, ridiculously good. (I blame the vanilla. Actually, I'm pretty much convinced that anything with vanilla in it can't actually taste bad. But maybe that's just me.)

Cranberry Sauce (adapted from Sunset magazine, November 1995; Sunset adapted it from a recipe given to them by the folks at the Lark Creek Inn in Northern California)

2 bags of cranberries (24 ounces total, or 6 cups)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup orange juice
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon vanilla

First, a disclaimer. Because of how much my family adores this cranberry sauce, and because we often have a dozen or more people to Thanksgiving dinner, I usually make three or four bags of cranberries, increasing the amounts of the ingredients as needed, and then tweaking them to taste. (By the way, you can use either fresh or frozen cranberries for this sauce. I tend to buy them fresh(ish) in a bag; I buy a whole bunch and freeze the ones I won't use for Thanksgiving for future dinners.)

Second, an explanation. We live in Southern California. There are two prolific lemon trees in my backyard. I am cheap. Hence, the mere idea of buying lemon juice makes me die a little inside. Instead, when the trees are bearing fruit, I make sure to juice as many of the ripe lemons as possible before they go bad, and then I freeze whatever juice I don't use immediately into little citrusy ice cubes. So, those orange ice-cube trays up there? Are my equivalent of store-bought lemons or lemon juice. Unless you live nearby, your mileage will probably vary.

Now, on with the instructions:

1. Put cranberries, both kinds of sugar, orange and lemon juices, and cinnamon into a pot; bring all to a simmer.

2. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally. The cranberries will (and should) start to burst open. Keep simmering and keep stirring until most if not all of the cranberries have 'popped.' The recipe says this takes 8 to 10 minutes; I don't think I've ever timed it, but I feel like it might take a little bit longer.

3. Turn off heat; take pot off burner. Stir in vanilla.

And you're done. This can be served warm (which is definitely the way I prefer it, but we've already discussed this), or it can be made ahead, chilled in the fridge in an airtight container, and served within a week.

Now that I've shown you mine, hows about you guys showing me yours: What's your favorite traditional recipe for Thanksgiving, and what do you do to it to kick it into high gear? Or, if you scoff at traditional anything, what's your favorite non-traditional Thanksgiving recipe? Spill. Now. Please? I'd be ever so thankful...


  1. Wow. I may have to change my cranberry plan. I was going to try a recipe I found in Food&Wine, but...

    And as for my most favorite recipe: I love roasted brussel sprouts. I know, not the most popular choice, but olive oil, kosher salt--it's simple, it's seasonal, it's green, and it's a nice balance to all the rich side dishes my family loves.

  2. I'm with Kristen on the roasted brussel sprouts. I tried them last year and they were the perfect accompaniment. My cranberry sauce comes from Bon Appetit, and it has dried cherries and shallots but I might have to try this one. You're right about vanilla!

  3. This looks fabulous. It'll be on my table next Thursday. For me, the most important dish is the gravy. Homemade, using the drippings and cornstarch and broth. I LOVE gravy.

  4. Cranberry sauce and fruit pies are about the only thing Henry eats on Thansgiving, so we'll definitely give this a try!

    My favorite Thanksgiving recipe is a from-scratch green bean casserole adapted from Martha Stewart (I know!)

  5. Funny you mention brussels sprouts, Kristen, because those are a FAVORITE of mine. I was actually thinking of doing them (exactly as you described) as an upcoming recipe here! (I also have a great Indian-spiced cauliflower recipe that I'm hoping to make for Tgiving that I will eventually put up here as well. Both are recipes that caused Em to change her mind about the respective vegetables involved.)

    Judy, I'm a gravy-lover, too, but I must say I don't yet have THE recipe. I play it pretty much by ear, though I've always used flour instead of cornstarch. That's an intersting idea...

  6. Oh, and Gretchen...What's the key to the green bean casserole? It's one of the few things I don't always include, and I'd love to find a recipe I could embrace.

  7. My husband makes a cranberry pie that is amazing. Me? I butter bread.

  8. I just read in Healthy Cooking that Knorrs Turkey Gravy is almost like the real thing. They said to add a little of the drippings.

    Cornstarch just makes it look transluscent and flour denser. Really no difference in taste...

  9. Mom mom's stuffing is the best. We've never had the "traditional" stuffing in our mostly because my sister has celiac disease, so our stuffing is made w/ potatoes. It has all the typical spices and other assorted ingredients of stuffing (celery, onions, giblets, etc) but mixed into mashed potatoes then stuffed into the turkey. There's always enough to back some in a casserole dish, but it's not nearly as good as what's cooked in the turkey. (I know, that's a big no-no according to many people.) I can eat nothing but that for Thanksgiving and would be one happy camper.

  10. i love this blog!!! thanks to nik's mom for sending me here!!!

    this is perfect timing! i'm going to add this cranberry sauce to my list of things to bring this thanksgiving.

    my favorite cranberry relish comes from my grandmother. it's scrumptious and easy and tart:


    put in the cuisinart. pulse to chop the fruit together. add sugar to taste.

    SO DELICIOUS, easy, and naturally low-cal.

  11. Yum.

    I've always like the sauce where you grind a whole orange and a bag of cranberries and some sugar - no cooking involved.

    Another excellent and different cranberry sauce is this one:

  12. finally tried this tonight - totally yummy. i've eaten about half of what i made, and need to save some for others! thanks for the recipe :). katie

  13. I have a recipe for sweet potatoes that I've never met the match of, and I know I never will. And I know if you just READ it, and not EAT it, there is no way you can understand... it sounds a little ick to read, but it. is. heavenly. Basically it involves baking lots of fat sweet potatoes, hulling them hot into butter, brown sugar, and (yes, it's true) jars of marshmallow whip, and beating... folding in (yes, true and oh so fattening) coconut, pouring into a baking dish, sprinkling with more brown sugar, and rebaking. Eat this and you will NOT need dessert. People for whom I make this talk about it for years to come and always, always invite me back. It's a family dish. Didn't make it this year, and feeling a little sad...but thinner for it...

  14. I'm hanging on to this recipe for next year!! YUM!