Cranberry Sauce -Three Ways

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.

Ginger-Cranberry Sauce

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.

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Moosewood’s Pumpkin Soup with Magical Swirl

Another prominent recipe in my life has been this magical soup. This one also goes back to that same house in college, where my five vegetarian roommates introduced me to the line of Moosewood cookbooks. The day I discovered this soup, which is amazing on its own, but the magical swirl just takes it to a whole new level, was the day I became a Moosewood believer. This recipe came with me when I moved to New York, and it definitely came in handy during the winter snow season. We even made this for one of my birthdays when my New York roommates threw me a themed spoon party, complete with life-sized cardboard cutouts! Magical birthday indeed… 🙂

Recipe for Moosewood’s Pumpkin Soup Complete with Magical Swirl

The Magical Swirl:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground caraway seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/8 tsp salt

To make the swirl, heat the oil in a small skillet and sauté the garlic on medium heat for 1 minute. Add the coriander, caraway and cayenne and continue to cook, stirring constantly. When the mixture begins to bubble, 2 to 3 minutes, remove it from the heat and transfer to a small bowl. Stir in the lemon juice, cilantro and salt.

The Soup:

  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup parsnips, peeled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups light vegetable stock
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened apple juice
  • 1/2 cup tomato juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 3/4 cups cooked pumpkin

In a soup pot, sauté the onions in the oil until they become translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in carrots, parsnips, and salt and continue to sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the water or stock, apple and tomato juices, cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon and paprika. Cover the pot and bring to a boil; then reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the pumpkin. I like to puree half to three-quarters of the soup in a blender until smooth, and then combine with the rest to keep the soup a bit chunky and hearty. Ladle the soup into bowls and top each with some magical swirl.

Yields 6 1/2 cups, about 4 servings.

Sangria Sorbet

It started back in college, when I lived in a house with five other girls. We’d keep the blender running all morning, each making a customized smoothie to fuel us through our morning classes. We each had our own technique – one used bananas that were frozen still in their peel, another added oatmeal to the mix, one even experimented with using coffee as the liquid. I always ended up settling on some mix of frozen strawberries and some apple, soy milk and maybe some banana too. Occasionally I’d add some peanut butter for protein, or a handful of almonds and let the blender take care of it. 

The year I turned 21, I started experimenting with some special smoothies… I used a more tropical flavor palette – frozen mango, strawberries, and an orange or orange juice, and then a shot or two of rum for good measure. I will never forget how my favorite metallic tote in college was permanently ruined by my special smoothie, but on that day, I was more devastated by how small my remaining special smoothie was…

While times have changed, so has my special smoothie. It’s now evolved into a more sophisticated version that I like to call sangria sorbet. It’s a healthy and refreshing dessert that’s been keeping me cool on these warm summer evenings. It’s versatile-you can use pretty much any fruit that you have on hand, and whatever wine you wish. The peaches and berries this season have been phenomenal, so I don’t even add any sweetener, but you can always try adding a touch of honey or agave if you like. Just blend everything together and grab a spoon!

Recipe for Sangria Sorbet

  • 1 cup frozen peaches, diced or sliced
  • 4-5 large frozen strawberries, or 1 cup frozen berries
  • 1 cup red wine (I like to use a good merlot or cab)
  • 1-2 tbsp agave or honey (optional)

Full disclosure. The amounts I listed above are totally arbitrary. I never measure anything when I make this. I just put whatever fruit I have to fill the blender, and then add just enough wine to get everything to blend smoothly. The trick is not to put too much wine, otherwise you’ll end up with more of a smoothie texture. I would say add the wine about a quarter cup at a time until it just comes together to resemble sorbet. Then grab your favorite spoon and enjoy!