Who really goes out of their way for cranberry sauce? It’s like the tuna noodle casserole of Thanksgiving dinner. Or that weird distant relative that’s always invited to family get-togethers, but usually as an afterthought. They’re included out of obligation, but not because you really like them.
Think about your Thanksgiving buffet. There’s the guest of honor – the turkey in all its glossy brown, roasted glory – in the middle of the table. The green bean casserole, the sweet potatoes, the corn casserole, or whatever sides you serve are strategically placed around it like enamored groupies. And then there is the cranberry sauce, like the plain wallflower at the dance, shoved over in the back corner. A condiment in tube form, still bearing the telltale rings of the can it was packaged in, usually not even given the dignity a piece of your nice China. I always get a small serving of cranberry sauce. Because it’s not that I don’t like it. I think it’s fine. But because I think it’s just “fine,” I usually don’t go out of my way to eat it again until next Thanksgiving rolls around.
I have actually wanted to try making my own cranberry sauce for a year now. I figured homemade has to be better than what you can get from a can. When I recently discovered for-real, actual, fresh cranberries in my local grocery store, I seized the moment. I was drawn to this recipe because of the inclusion of rosemary and red zinfandel (there I go, being a boozer again).
As I was throwing everything in the pot, I was struck by how pretty all the different colors looked together. As the cranberries simmered on the stove, I could hear them “pop, pop, popping” as the berries burst open and released their juices.
This is another example where I am glad I invested in a foodmill this past summer. Once the berries cooled a little, I ran them through my mill. First, using the medium blade to separate the skins from the juice. And a second time using the fine blade for a more even texture. I opted to pour the sauce into a pretty fluted jello mold, but you could forgo that and pour it directly into a serving dish. If you do decide to mold – and then later unmold – your sauce, let me share a tip from one of my readers. Spray the mold with a light mist of cooking spray beforehand. The sauce slips right out with no problem and there is no weird, greasy taste.
I was right. Homemade is much better than what you get from a can. The sauce was juicy and fruity. The alcohol from the wine burns off as you cook it on the stove, so there should be no issues with you getting any underage family members intoxicated. I hope you’ll give this a try and develop a new appreciation for the most unappreciated condiment there is – cranberry sauce.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- 2 bags 12 ounces each fresh or frozen cranberries
- 3 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup red Zinfandel wine or grape juice
- 1/2 cup cranberry juice
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- Zest from one medium orange
Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil approximately 7 minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool slight.
If using a food mill, run mixture through the mill twice – first using the medium grade blade, then again using the fine grade blade. If not using a food mill, mash cooked berries with a potato masher, then run first through a large colander and then again through a fine mesh colander.
Pour extracted juice into a serving dish or mold. Refrigerate overnight to set.