I’m surely not alone in recalling childhood holiday dinners where the cranberry sauce came from a can. Do you remember watching your mother take the lid off the can and then tip it until the solid, quivering cranberry log — like dense gelatin — slid out with a sucking, slurpish sound? Mmm, may I have a second helping please?
So here’s a concept: suppose we start our cranberry sauce with actual cranberries? In shades from ruby red to bright scarlet, sweetened to quell their natural and rather severe tartness, and combined with other good flavours like orange, lemon and apple. Let’s throw in some raisins too, and some nuts. Gone is that log of staid, trembling, utterly boring smoothness, replaced by a medley of flavours, colours and textures.
All this said, generally only a scant 25 percent of the people around my table will eat my jazzy cranberry compote (oh, the Offspring are so selective in their tastes), but the ones that do request it every year. In fact, I make enough for my discerning cranberry regulars to take leftovers home with them.
You know, it’s occurred to me that I’ve been making cranberry sauce like this for many years now. It’s time for an update. So, after passing this recipe along to you, the wheels are turning … After a holiday meal sometime in the future you may see another post about taking it to a new level in the cranberry department.
This recipe is lightly adapted from Ina Garten’s ‘Cranberry Fruit Conserve’ in Barefoot Contessa Parties! This year I switched it up a bit by using brown sugar in a smaller quantity than her recipe calls for white sugar. I’ve always used golden raisins in my compote, but I didn’t have any when I was doing my Thanksgiving prep. Instead of going to the store, I opted to use dark Thompson raisins instead. What can I say, I was sorry. Yes, the type of raisins you use does matter.
- 1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, picked over and rinsed
- 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 medium-sized apple, cored and chopped (I leave the peel on; I usually use Granny Smith as Ina recommends, but this year I used a Royal Gala)
- Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
- Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 3/4 cup golden raisins (note, my photos show Thompson raisins)
- 3/4 cup chopped pecans
Put the cranberries, brown sugar and water in a medium-sized pan and heat over low heat until the berries open. Add the apple and the orange and lemon zest and juice and cook for about 15 minutes over medium low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the raisins and nuts.
Let the gorgeously jewel-tone mixture cool, during which time it will thicken, then decant into storage containers or serving dishes, cover and refrigerate. Serve cold. You can make this a day ahead and keep in an airtight container in the fridge.
This compote makes an excellent condiment for turkey sandwiches in the post-holiday use-up-the-bird marathon.
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