The first time I made cranberry sauce from scratch was as one of those magical moments in life that brought back a sense of childlike wonder. As I stood over the stove, I watched the brilliant red cranberries undergo a kind of metamorphosis, every few seconds another berry bursting out of its skin with a soft “pop”, revealing a unique striped pattern. Just like snowflakes, the beauty and magic is fleeting – lasting only moments before melting into the rest. But in the end, I had a bright ruby sauce with a perfect balance of tart and sweet to awaken the palate.
And so began my fascination with homemade cranberry sauce. I still can’t believe how easy it is to make (just 15 minutes and only three ingredients!), along with the endless variation potential (you can add apples, cinnamon, pears, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, persimmon, pretty much anything your heart desires!). Not to mention all of the things you can use leftover cranberry sauce for (my favorite is to add a dollop in my oatmeal)… Go ahead, grab some fresh cranberries, a spoon, and dig in!
Recipe for cranberry sauce
The Basic Cranberry Sauce:
- 12 oz. (1 bag) or about 4 cups fresh cranberries, washed and drained
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg (optional)
Pour the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture is boiling and the sugar has dissolved, add in the cranberries and return to a boil. Now, lower the heat and bring to a simmer.
This is when the magic happens! Over the next 10 minutes, the cranberries will burst open to reveal brilliant stripes and then melt together to create the sauce. This is when you can add your cinnamon, nutmeg or any other spices that you like.
Once most of the berries have burst, remove the pot from the heat and set aside to let cool. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. You can serve it right away, or you can store it in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.
Apple/Pear/Persimmon Cranberry Sauce
If you want to give some your cranberry sauce some added texture and flavor, you can add apples, pears, and/or persimmons. Most people like using tart apples (like Granny Smith), but I like fuji or gala. Pears add a nice sweetness too (I like red Anjous or red Comice), but make sure to peel them first if using pears with rougher skin (like Bosc) so you don’t end up with sandpaper-like bits in your cranberry sauce. If adding persimmons, make sure you use the crunchy fuyu type which cook more like apples. Be sure to peel the persimmons completely and remove any seeds before dicing.
- Add 1 or 2 diced apples, pears, or persimmons (or any combination!) to the above recipe. (This is about 2 cups diced fruit.)
Follow the recipe above for basic cranberry sauce, adding in the diced fruit right after you bring the cranberries to a boil.
If you want a spicier sauce to cut the sweetness, you can add some freshly sliced, diced or grated ginger. Using sliced ginger enables you to remove the ginger after the cooking process so that you get a mild flavor of ginger in your sauce. Using grated ginger pulp will yield a sauce with stronger ginger flavor, while still maintaining a smooth texture and consistent spiciness throughout. Using finely diced ginger will result in a cranberry sauce with bits of the spicy ginger that can add a bright surprise to any bite (recommended for true ginger lovers).
- Add a 1-inch segment of peeled ginger root, either sliced, grated into a pulp, or finely diced to the basic recipe
Follow the recipe above for basic cranberry sauce, adding in the ginger right after you bring the cranberries back to a boil.