This column is for Jeannie, my newly transplanted Memphis friend who asked for a recipe for cranberry sauce. I have three favorites, and I love them all. Picking one would be like calling one of my three children my favorite.
And no, there is nothing dietetic about cranberry sauce. But for me there is no substitute. Cranberry sauce and portion control go hand in hand. Plus, I really have no idea how many calories are in each tablespoon of my recipes, and in this case, ignorance really is bliss.
Any of these sauces can be made a week or two ahead, and my advice is to do it one night when you have 20 minutes to spare. How good does that feel to check one item off your Thanksgiving to-do list? One of the sauces is served warm, so a simple pass in the microwave for a minute or two, just before the turkey is served, works well. The other two sauces are best served at room temperature.
Selecting: You really have no choice, since for most of us, cranberries come bagged. But do look at the berries to be sure they are plump and unblemished. In all my years of buying cranberries, I can count on one hand the number of berries I had to toss out. Color does not matter, since cranberries range from a light red to a deep cranberry color!
Storing: In the refrigerator, secure in the bags they are packaged in, cranberries keep about four weeks. If I am not using the cranberries within a week, I store them in the freezer, where they will keep about 9 months. I just double wrap them for extra protection. They can also go from freezer to recipes, since they thaw almost immediately.
ZINFANDEL CRANBERRY SAUCE
1 3/4 cups red zinfandel
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed golden brown sugar
6 whole cloves
6 whole allspice
2 cinnamon sticks
1 3-by-1-inch strip orange peel
1 12-oz. bag cranberries
- Combine all ingredients except cranberries in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes, until the mixture is reduced to about 1 3/4 cups.
- Strain syrup into a large saucepan. Add cranberries and cook over medium heat until the cranberries burst, about 5 or 6 minutes.
- Transfer sauce to a bowl. Cool, cover, and refrigerate until cold.
TRIPLE CRANBERRY SAUCE
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups cranberry juice
Grated zest and juice from 2 lemons and 2 oranges
3 cups packed brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- Place all ingredients in a saucepan. Mix well.
- Turn heat to medium-low, bring to a simmer, and cook until berries burst, about 10 to 15 minutes. It's good to stir the pot from time to time.
- You can serve as is, warm, with the turkey, or refrigerate, covered, and heat in the microwave a minute or two before serving.
NUTTY CRANBERRY RELISH
1/2 cup brandy, preferably apple
1/4 cup cranberry juice
1 12-oz. bag fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 3-inch piece of cinnamon stick
1/3 cup walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
- Combine all ingredients, except the nuts, in a saucepan. Stir to combine.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
- Reduce heat, stir in the nuts, and cook gently until cranberries burst.
- Poor into a bowl and cool. Can be refrigerated a few weeks.