Colorful, tart and a seasonal must-have, cranberries are the perfect complement to holiday menus. Roast turkey, duck and goose all benefit from the mouth-puckering acidity of cranberries. But it’s time to give them a tasty twist. These easy-to-make variations on the classic sauce will have you and your guests asking for more. (P.S. Think beyond Thanksgiving. Whole raw cranberries freeze beautifully for a month, so try later with duck, rack of lamb, or grilled chicken and jack cheese.)
Begin With: THE BASIC CRANBERRY SAUCE
(Makes about 2 1/2 cups)
1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
1 12-oz. package of cranberries
Bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add cranberries, bring back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until berries start to burst. Cool.
1) Cranberry-Apple Sauce
Substitute the juice of half an orange for the 4 Tbsp. water. Zest the orange and finely dice. Chop 1 tart apple into cranberry-sized pieces and add the apple and zest to sugar water with the cranberries. Proceed with the basic recipe. Season with ground cinnamon to taste after removing sauce from the heat. Garnish with apple fan.
2) Spiced Cranberry Sauce
Add to basic sauce after removing from the heat:
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1∕8 tsp. ground allspice
1∕8 tsp. ground cloves
1∕8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 ½ tsp. grated, peeled
Garnish with crystallized ginger.
3) Chili Cranberry Sauce
Substitute 1/4 cup white wine for 1/4 cup of the water. Seed and chop a ripe, mild chili pepper (an Anaheim or poblano; or substitute 1/2 ripe red bell pepper and 1/2 ripe jalapeño pepper) and add to water with the berries. Proceed with basic recipe. Garnish with fresh red pepper.
4) Cranberry-Port Sauce
Skip the water. Cook cranberries, 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup orange juice and 2 Tbsp. grated orange rind together until just a few berries burst. Add 1/2 cup ruby port and cook another 2-3 minutes, until most of the berries have burst. Garnish with orange rind.
KICK THE CAN
Many of us have memories of perfectly can-shaped cranberry jelly on the holiday table. That’s great, but if you’re looking for a way to jazz the jelly up a bit, here are a few ideas:
- Serve the jelly in slices.
- Add texture by sprinkling the jelly slices with chipped, toasted pecans.
- Chill the jelly thoroughly, slice and shape with small cookie cutters.
- Mash the jelly so that it resembles jam and garnish with orange zest.