When people think of cranberry sauce, they typically think of the super-processed sauce in a can. I know I did. The canned cranberry sauce comes out in the exact shape of the can and contains who knows what. But due to tradition, we put the canned cranberry sauce on the table each year for the holidays. We only started eating it after I created my holiday cranberry sauce recipe.
My mom has my grandmother’s cranberry dish, a dish our holiday kitchen table isn’t complete without. My mom can’t remember a time that it wasn’t on the table for the holidays and neither can I. Yet it seemed sad to me that this bright heirloom dish sat under uneaten cranberry sauce. So I knew I had to find a way to make cranberry sauce something my family would enjoy and be worthy to be in such a special dish.
Cranberries are beautiful bright berry-like fruit packed with antioxidants. They’re especially good for kidney health and treating UTIs. They’re a small tart little gem of a fruit. Holiday dinners are typically so rich and heavy, that the tartness adds some balance to the meal. I like to take a bite of cranberry sauce between every few bites of buttery stuffing, turkey, and mashed potatoes.
My holiday cranberry sauce recipe is inspired by one of Bobby Flay’s. Over the years, the recipe has changed and developed. One year it was super sweet and was perfect over cheesecake. Another it was heavy on the cinnamon, pairing well with butter spread over cornbread. But this year, my holiday cranberry sauce was perfection. There was just the right amount of tartness, sweetness and earthiness with the addition of the bourbon. In years past I used cheaper and sweeter whiskey, but a good bourbon or rye whiskey makes a huge difference.
As the cranberries boil and breakdown with the cherries, the smell fills the house. The cinnamon sticks open up and begin to fill the air with spice. The bourbon adds that extra spice and earthiness that the cranberries need. This smell is another reason I like cooking this sauce a day before I’m serving it. It adds that extra touch of holiday spirit before the big day. To store the holiday cranberry sauce, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a few months.
Holiday Cranberry SaucePrint This
- 1 bag of fresh cranberries
- 1 16oz. bag of frozen pitted cherries (I use the dark sweet cherries from Trader Joes)
- ¼ cup of bourbon (best with a good rye variety)
- ¼ cup of brown sugar
- 2 oranges (for the juice and the rind)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
Place a saucepan over medium heat.
Add the cranberries, cherries, brown sugar, and bourbon to the saucepan.
Cut the two oranges in half and juice three of the four halves directly in the saucepan. Using a large micro-plane grater, grate the skin of three of the four orange halves into the mixture. Add the cinnamon sticks.
Slowly bring the ingredients to a light boil. The cranberries will begin to pop and breakdown, alongside the cherries. Allow the mixture to simmer and cook like this for up to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Taste test the mixture to ensure the cranberries are the perfectly desired tang to sweet ratio. Depending on the crop of cranberries, I sometimes find that more brown sugar is needed. Add additional brown sugar little by little before reaching the desired level of sweetness.
Allow the cranberry sauce to cool before placing it in a container to sit overnight in the fridge.
To reheat, put the sauce back in a saucepan over low heat and reheat slowly.