Cooking 101: How to Upgrade Cranberry Sauce

Cooking 101:  How to Upgrade Cranberry Sauce

Whether the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving dinner is roasted turkey or tofurkey – or perhaps both – cranberries remain the essential sidekick to this holiday meal. Since family members cling to certain favorites, chances are good that at least one guest will maintain a strong attachment to straight-from-the-can jellied cranberry sauce (with hallmark indentation rings as the sign of authenticity). Since a bowl of jewel-tone cranberries requires only a modest amount of space on a well-stocked table, adding a scratch-made variety or two will complement – and elevate – your bountiful feast. 

Relish vs. sauce
Both of these condiments may be prepared and chilled several days ahead, reducing stress before show time. Since relish is uncooked, it delivers a tangy taste and textural complexity – not to mention being a snap to make in a food processor. A 12-ounce bag of cranberries, one sliced orange (with peel) and a cup of granulated sugar are all that’s required for a base recipe that can be tweaked as desired, such as adding a small handful of walnuts. Pulse until broken down to small “crumbs,” but stopping before the mixture becomes mushy. 

Basic sauce also requires minimal effort as the fresh cranberries simmer in water, sugar, and orange zest until the berries burst. Personalize with favorite spices or go full-on exotic by preparing cranberry chutney by stirring in chopped green apple, golden raisins, cardamom, ground cloves, grated ginger, some thinly sliced Thai chile pepper (as desired) to the simmering mixture, along with a cinnamon stick and piece of star anise, both of which should be removed before storing.  

Saucing like a pro.
Shawn Doyle, chef/owner of the Savory Grille in Macungie, graciously agreed to share a personal favorite cranberry sauce recipe with Lehigh Valley Marketplace readers. However, the wine-simmered specialty comes with a caveat: Make sure guests are aware of this festive ingredient since the alcohol content will not evaporate fully during boiling, as indicated by a USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory study. (That means keeping it off the kiddie table too!) Otherwise, keep this tasty concoction on hand for casual entertaining throughout the holiday season. For simple nibbles, spoon a dollop atop crackers or crostini schmeared with cream cheese, or spread the fabulous flavor on roast turkey sliders. Pairing note: The heartiness of cabernet plays well with sparkling cocktails. 

Cranberries and Pears Take a Cab

1 cup cabernet
1 cup + 2 tsp. sugar
12 oz. (1 bag) fresh cranberries
1 tsp. grated ginger
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 dash each: ground cloves,
cinnamon, salt
2 tsp. lime zest
2 pears

Place wine and 1 cup sugar in large saucepan. Warm over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add cranberries, ginger, cayenne, cloves, cinnamon, salt, and lime zest and bring to a boil. When berries begin to pop, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens. Set aside to cool. Peel, core and dice pears. Coat medium skillet with cooking spray and warm over medium-high heat. Add pears and 2 teaspoons sugar to pan. Cook about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until pears are soft but not mushy. Cool 10 minutes. When cranberry mixture is room temperature, stir pears into sauce. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate up to 3 days before serving.

Yields about 3 cups

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