Growing up, cranberry sauce was one of the first things my mother tossed together on Thanksgiving morning, quickly combining a bag of fresh cranberries in a pot with a few cups of water and sugar. The sauce would bubble and pop until it was ready to be poured into the serving dish on our dining table to cool and wait for the other, more complicated, dishes to join it much later the same day.
Once I was tall enough to reach the stove, cranberry sauce duties were delegated my way and I would take much pride in the stirring and careful measurement of water and sugar. When the guests arrived, I’d eagerly offer them a serving of MY cranberry sauce to accompany the rest of the food on their plates. The fresh sauce was always wonderful, simultaneously tart and sweet, with a bit of burst from the whole berries. It was, I assumed, what everyone else was eating along with their Thanksgiving turkey.
For the past several years I’ve been experimenting with adding different flavors to my basic sauce recipe, and have recently settled on a new favorite: a lovely spicy-sweet combination of fresh ginger, citrus, and cinnamon that I love so much I admit to eating it by the spoonful while preparing the rest of the meal. And while cleaning up afterward. And while writing this.
Instead of water, I used a combination of apple cider and orange juice, and at the end, I added a quick splash of 20-year strawberry-balsamic vinegar to round out the flavors (you can use your favorite flavored or plain balsamic for this). This sauce particularly complements my smoky Latin-style turkey recipe, but would work just as well with your favorite Thanksgiving dishes.
This sauce is the quickest thing to throw together and can be made well in advance of the big day so you won’t have to worry about freeing up one of the burners. It keeps in the fridge and can be served cold, hot, or room temperature. Leftovers are wonderful with roasted pork tenderloin or even over a simple flourless chocolate cake! I'm actually toying with the idea of tucking a few spoonfuls into a batch of buttery puff pastry, just to see what happens...
Better-than-Canned Spiced Cranberry Orange Sauce
- 3 cups apple cider
- 1 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 cup sugar
- Peel of one orange, cut into large strips
- 2 inches of fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced thickly
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 pound fresh cranberries
- 1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar (a raspberry, fig, or strawberry balsamic vinegar would work particularly well here)
In a medium saucepan, combine the apple cider, orange juice, and sugar and heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the orange peel, ginger, and cinnamon stick and let simmer for 10 minutes until reduced by a third.
Add the cranberries and stir. Let simmer over medium low heat for another 15-20 minutes until the berries burst and the sauce thickens slightly.
Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar. Let cool before serving. Can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.