Even though I grew up eating canned cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving, I never use it now. We’re a “from scratch” house just as more and more households endeavor to be as our food system gets scarier and scarier. In the case of cranberries, a fruit native to the US and one that was certainly available for the first Thanksgiving, their preparation is simple so there are no excuses not to make it yourself. Beware their bitter and tannic nature, however, which is quickly tamed with the addition of a sweetener. If you don’t like the natural sweeteners I suggest, use Port or another sweet wine in place of the sweetener and water in the recipe.
In this simple and quick recipe the cranberries are cooked with a sweetener and spices long enough to become tender and form a beautiful sauce.
- 8 oz fresh cranberries (2 generous cups), rinsed well. (organic cranberries from Canada are available in 8 oz. bags at Trader Joe’s)
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/3 cup honey, demerara, turbinado or cane sugar (bags marked simply as sugar can be made from GMO sugar beets)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 whole allspice berries
- nutmeg, freshly ground
- pat of butter (optional)
- cheese cloth or a metal tea holder
Add the sweetener and water to the saucepan and bring to the boil, lower to a simmer, stir to mix and add the cranberries and cinnamon stick Wrap and tie the cloves and allspice in cheese cloth or place them in a metal tea holder and add them to the pot (for ease in removing later). Cook over medium low heat uncovered for at least 10 minutes or until the berries have popped and the sauce has thickened.
Test the cranberries for tenderness and continue cooking if necessary until they are soft and tender. Add more water if necessary to maintain a sauce-like consistency. Grate fresh nutmeg over and taste again, adding more nutmeg if you’d like.
If the sauce is not sweet enough for your taste, try stirring in a pat of butter and tasting it again. Drizzle with honey if you think it’ still too puckery. Allow to cool and remove cinnamon, cloves and allspice before serving.