It’s pretty much universally accepted that no Thanksgiving spread is complete without a cranberry condiment of some sort. My grandma Bunny was partial to a raw cranberry-orange relish she made with hand-cranked countertop grinder (I do wish I had her recipe, but both she and it have been gone since I was 15). My cousin Angie makes the same cranberry jello mold that her mother always used to make. My own mother has always been a secret fan of the standard canned stuff, not necessarily announcing her preference to people outside the family, but always ensuring that it appeared on any holiday table at which she ate.
In recent years, as I became enamored with the idea of making myself what I once mindlessly bought, I experimented with varieties of homemade cranberry sauce. I made whole berry compotes with fresh vanilla bean. I did an apple-cranberry sauce. I even tried that cranberry jello mold. As delicious as they all were, none were quite right.
That is, until I determined to make a very simple cranberry sauce, using just fresh berries, a splash of apple cider and sugar. Essentially, I resisted the urge to fancy it up. After cooking, a pass through a food mill and a rest in the fridge overnight, I realized I had made something nearly identical to my mom’s favorite canned sauce, only without the high fructose corn syrup.
So, if you like the classic canned jelly, but have a burning desire to make your own, this is the recipe for you. Best of all, you can put it through a hot water process and make it shelf stable, making it a do-ahead Thanksgiving project (and it’s good on more than just turkey, it was delicious on the french toast you see above). The only downside I can see is that it won’t exist its vessel whole and retain the shape of the can.
The recipe is after the jump…
- 1 pound whole cranberries, washed and picked over for any bad berries
- 1 1/2 cups of sugar
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- lemon juice (optional)
- Combine the first three above ingredients and simmer until the berries begin to burst. Remove from the heat and taste. If it's too sweet for you, add a bit of lemon juice to increase the tartness. If it's too tart, you can add a bit more sugar and return to the heat in order until the sugar is integrated.
- Once the flavors are adjusted and the fruit has cooled a bit run it through a food mill or press it through a sieve, to remove the skins.
- Pour into clean jars (leaving 1/2 inch head space), wipe rims, apply lids (make sure to simmer your lids at approximately 180 degrees for about ten minutes prior to use) and process in a boiling water canner for fifteen minutes (starting the time when the canner returns to a boil).
- If you can't help but mess around with recipes, try adding some cinnamon, orange zest or a bit of vanilla bean (it's delicious, it just didn't match the food memory I was trying to satisfy). Make it your own!