Thanksgiving's Red Sauce

Today is T minus 2. Do yourself a favor and make the cranberries TONIGHT. You’ll thank me on Thursday when you’re elbow deep in mashed and stuffing, realizing that you’ve completely spaced on the red sauce and there's nary a burner to get them simmering. Let's nip this cran in the bud and check it off the to-do list; better still, cranberry sauce is a cinch to make, requiring minimal after-work mental energy and just one saucepan.

Early harvest cranberries from Washington state. (Kim O'Donnel)

I made a batch yesterday morning while still in my pajamas and drinking my first cup of coffee; within 35 minutes, my sauce was done and the house smelled heavenly!

Now, get going and make that sauce. And if you're so inclined, here's your chance to give thanks and share your tried-and-true cran recipes. Weigh in with your berry good ideas in the comments area. Today is chat today; talk turkey and trimmings with me today at 1 ET.

P.S. The berries, pictured above, are from the “cranberry coast” of Washington state, about three hours southwest of Seattle. They’re a tad pale, the result of an early harvest, but no less delicious. The farmer told me they would be sweeter, but I’d say they’re more mellow than sweet, but every bit as tart as their fully pigmented red brethren.

Cranberry Sauce
1 pound fresh cranberries
2 oranges
Approximately 8 ounces good quality maple syrup, or to taste
Optional add-ons: Chopped walnuts or pecans; 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

Rinse cranberries and place in a medium saucepan. Using a zester or grater, remove peel of one of the oranges, dice, and add to saucepan. Slice oranges into halves and squeeze juice over cranberries. You want liquid to barely cover cranberries; add water or more juice as necessary.

Add ¾ cup of the maple syrup, reserving the rest on as-needed basis. Stir mixture to combine and bring up to a boil. Lower heat and cook over a simmer; cranberries will make a popping noise as they cook, reduce and thicken. Stir occasionally and cook until desired consistency; taste for sweet/tart ratio and add more maple syrup as necessary.

If using walnuts or ginger, add off the heat and stir to combine.

Serve either warm or at room temperature. Can be made days in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container. Makes about 2 cups sauce.

By Kim ODonnel |  November 25, 2008; 7:00 AM ET Thanksgiving
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Kim -- your recipe is similar to mine, which my wife loves...

1# cranberries
3/4 C of Riesling
1/4 C of Kirsch
zest of 2 oranges
juice from 2 oranges
1 C minus 2 T sugar
2 T honey

You can add some dried cranberries near the end to let them rehydrate and give some tooth to the cranberries...


Posted by: Registration1982 | November 25, 2008 8:22 AM

I'll be trying a new recipe this year:

1 lb of cranberries
1 cup pomegranate juice
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
seeds from one pomegranate

Combine sugar and pom juice, add cranberries, boil to desired consistency, cool and add pom seeds.

Posted by: LaurenMcK | November 25, 2008 9:21 AM

Also trying a new recipe. Although I have had good luck in the past with the Joy of Cooking recipe, which is basically cranberries, sugar, orange juice.

Holiday Relish

One 12-oz. bag fresh cranberries
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
1 cup dried golden raisins
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon or ginger
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Put all the ingredients except the vinegar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir to combine. Stirring, bring the ingredients to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer gently until relish thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar. Spoon into a heatproof container, cover with plastic, and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate. Tightly covered, the relish will keep for 2 weeks.

Serves 10. Per serving: 90 calories, 23g carbs. No protein, fat, or cholesterol.

Posted by: chiquita2 | November 25, 2008 9:54 AM

This is my tried and true cranberry sauce recipe. The dried cherries add a whole other element.

12 oz bag cranberries, rinsed well
8 oz dried cherries
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups water

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and let simmer for 20-25 minutes. The longer you simmer it, the thicker it will be.

Posted by: has3979 | November 25, 2008 10:21 AM

I've got to pick up the ingredients for the sauce today after work and forgot to bring your cookbook along. Perfect timing on posting the recipe. It's a T-day staple. Thanks, Kim!

Posted by: mauramcc | November 25, 2008 10:21 AM

I just make the back of the bag standard recipe (sugar, water, cranberries) and even that is much better than canned.

A few weeks ago I made the cranberry apple crisp from and it was very good. It uses some simple homemade cranberry sauce, dried cranberries and lots of apples. If we were going to a family affair this year, this is what I would have brought for dessert.

Posted by: fran426 | November 25, 2008 10:53 AM

Alton Brown has a very tasty cranberry dipping sauce that I made last year. Similar ingrediants as those already posted here. One thing I did do differently is to add a red chili pepper. Turned out great. The sweet, tart, heat was very tasty.

Posted by: | November 25, 2008 1:11 PM

The cherries are the best new idea I've heard of in some time.

Like Kim, I find the orange indispensable. I do like a little crunch, and add a bit of finely chopped celery and apple.

I grew up with the gelled cranberry sauce in the can. Later in life I experienced the other fresh relish varieties. I often have a yearly choice, both varieties now served at various family Thanksgiving dinners. Last year I decided I was tired of choosing, and incorporated a can of cranberry jelly with my fresh-ingredients recipe. Something for everyone in that recipe! It was, by the way, delicious.

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 25, 2008 2:24 PM

I desperately want to brine my bird - but it's frozen solid as of 2pm Tuesday! Can I brine in the fridge as it thaws, and if so is it likely to thaw AND be brined by 10 am or so Thursday? It is a 14 lb. bird. Thank you!!!

Posted by: hlambert2216 | November 25, 2008 2:29 PM

Hlambert2216, Sounds like you need to expedite matters, particularly if you want to brine. Why don't you try a cold water thaw. According to the USDA food safety folks, you can safely do this as long as turkey is wrapped and you change the water every 30 minutes or so. Their estimate is 30 minutes of cold water thaw per pound. If you can get it even half way thawed, you can brine tomorrow for a 24-hour brine. Get your brine made today and chilled.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 25, 2008 2:36 PM

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