Thanksgiving is a time for cherished traditions and mouthwatering dishes. While the turkey often takes center stage, it’s the delightful sides that can truly elevate your Thanksgiving feast. One such side that deserves its moment in the spotlight is the Homemade Cranberry Sauce. Forget about the canned version; we’re going to walk you through creating this tangy, sweet, and slightly tart sauce that will have your guests asking for seconds. Plus, we’ll share some historical insights into the origin of cranberry sauce to add a touch of tradition to your celebration.
Cranberries are a native American fruit, and indigenous people have been using them for centuries. The Wampanoag tribe, who played a crucial role in the first Thanksgiving feast shared with the Pilgrims in 1621, were known to have used cranberries in their recipes. While it’s unlikely they prepared cranberry sauce as we do today, the presence of these vibrant red berries on the table is a historical nod we can all appreciate.
Step 1: Prepare the Cranberries
- Start by rinsing the fresh cranberries under cold water. Discard any that are bruised or damaged.
Step 2: Create the Flavor Base
- In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of water. Place the saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.
Step 3: Add the Cranberries and Aromatics
- Stir in the rinsed cranberries, the zest of one orange, the juice of that same orange, one cinnamon stick, and a quarter teaspoon of ground cloves.
Step 4: Simmer and Stir
- Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes, or until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens. As they cook, you’ll hear the cranberries pop – that’s the wonderful sound of your sauce coming together.
Step 5: Adjust the Consistency
- If you prefer a chunkier sauce, remove it from heat when about half of the cranberries have burst. For a smoother sauce, cook it a bit longer until most cranberries have popped.
Step 6: Remove Aromatics
- Once your cranberry sauce reaches your desired consistency, remove the cinnamon stick.
Step 7: Strain (optional)
- If you want a silky-smooth sauce without the cranberry skins, strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, using the back of a spoon to push it through. This step is optional but can give your sauce a refined texture.
Step 8: Cool and Serve
- Allow the cranberry sauce to cool to room temperature before transferring it to a serving dish. It will continue to thicken as it cools.