I’ll never forget the sound that the cranberry sauce made as it slid out of its tin can enclosure. There was a moment of anticipatory silence followed by a long sluuuuuuuurp and an audible plop. And then it sat there in the bowl. A solid red lump, fully equipped with the ribbing from the can that was its home for god only knows how long. It skeeves me out just thinking about it.
I was 14 years old and I was responsible for the cranberry sauce at Christmas dinner that year. My mom, overwhelmed by the amount of cooking she had to do, appointed me with the simple task of whipping up some cranberry sauce, and I tried to cheat my way out of it by picking up a can at the store and trying to pass it off as my own. Worst.idea.ever. And probably also the reason why no one asked me to make cranberry sauce again.
But I obviously had to redeem myself. I mean, I didn’t want to go down as the girl who brings bad food to the party, and this recipe that I’m about to share with you worked wonders when it came to restoring everyone’s faith in me.
In all seriousness, though, store-bought cranberry sauce doesn’t hold a candle to the homemade kind. And anyone who isn’t a fan of the homemade kind either is simply doing it all wrong. Yup, I said it. If you don’t like cranberry sauce, you need to re-evaluate your life. Nothing personal, but I just really feel like someone needs to stand up for cranberry sauce since it always seems to get neglected in favour of some of the other foods on the table. I mean, have you ever seen a bowl of cranberry sauce licked clean? Exactly. It’s still hanging around after everyone walked away from the dinner table like the kid in glasses that nobody wanted to pick in gym class.
I get it; I really do. Cranberries don’t exactly make themselves easy to love. They’re crazy tart and the texture is a bit strange — not really the kind of fruit that you’re going to grab a handful of and pop in your mouth. But when done right (read: like this), even the humble cranberry can become something that people look forward to.
The secret is to pair it with some complementary flavours — in this case, orange, maple and warming spices. Rather than boiling the cranberries in water, this recipe calls for orange juice, which not only helps sweeten up the tart berries, but also adds a slightly more complex and festive flavour profile. In terms of sweetener, refined sugar gets swapped out for natural maple syrup. This makes the recipe healthier, while also adding subtle maple undertones to the finished product. And to seal the deal, a few dashes of everyone’s favourite warming spices to really add some holiday flair.
The best part about making homemade applesauce is the fact that, in addition to being super simple and quick, it’s completely customizable. Want a tarter sauce? Leave out some sweetener. Want a more robust flavour? Add more spices. Don’t have any maple syrup on hand? Swap it out for some honey. No matter what you do, you’ll end up with a sauce that tastes just the way you want it. The only thing you won’t get is sluuuuuurp and plop that comes with the store-bought variety. But I’m going to go ahead and say that’s probably a good thing.
Holiday Spiced Cranberry Sauce
- 4 cups (12 ounces) cranberries, frozen or fresh
- 1 cup orange juice
- zest of one orange
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- In a large saucepan, bring cranberries, orange juice, and orange zest to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and let simmer uncovered until all of the berries have popped and the sauce begins to thicken, about 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in the maple syrup and spices, adjusting to taste. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools, so let it sit for at least 15 minutes prior to serving.
- Store covered in the fridge for up to two months. Or freeze and thaw when needed.