This sweet-tart, jazzed up Homemade Cranberry Sauce is aaalmost as easy as opening the canned stuff and umpteen times more delicious. Beautiful for the holiday table and easy to make ahead of time, too.
Thanksgiving has come and gone in Canada but my US readers are now officially on countdown mode to celebrate theirs. In the next few posts I will be sharing some essential holiday dishes that always make an appearance on our Thanksgiving, or Christmas table, year after year. A few break just slightly from tradition but always stay within their familiar confines. I hope you love them as much as we do.
We are starting with arguably the easiest of all the dishes on the Thanksgiving menu: Homemade cranberry sauce. Whether you love it or hate it, it lends a striking pop of colour to the holiday table. Plus, nothing beats its puckery-sweet jolt to help cut through all the rich and starchy food on the menu.
However, this homemade cranberry sauce recipe may not be for the traditionalists that are happy with a back-of-the-package recipe. If that’s you, don’t move on just yet. I urge you to give this one a chance. It is absolutely delicious and everyone that tries it goes crazy for it. Trust me, bring it to your holiday table and I assure you, you will get no complaints.
A Jazzed Up Cranberry Sauce Recipe
Confession: I have never *loved* cranberry sauce. I didn’t grow up eating it and when I tried it several times as an adult, I always found it waaay too sweet. Others in this household couldn’t imagine a Thanksgiving spread without it so I set out to find a recipe I hoped to at least tolerate.
It was years ago when I finally fell in love with a cranberry recipe. In fact, the year was 1999. I know because I still have the Bon Appetit magazine issue it came from. That year, my entire Thanksgiving dinner came from it. Some I repeated, some I didn’t but the cranberry sauce has never, ever changed. I fell deeply in love with it and still love it to this day.
The cranberries cook with some of the familiar flavours you are used to; orange juice with zest, cinnamon, and sugar. But there is a bit of a twist. They are also cooked in red wine with a bit of crystallized ginger. The result is a classic gelled cranberry sauce that is just sweet enough, and just tart enough, with lots of deep, rich flavours. It takes no longer to prepare or cook than your basic cranberry sauce and it is utterly delicious.
I did however make a few changes to the original recipe. The sugar was drastically reduced, of course, because 1 1/4 cup sugar is more than a lot. I use a cinnamon stick, no extra spices. I love only a whisper of ginger in the sauce, so I reduced the 1/3 cup of chopped crystallized ginger to just a few tablespoons. The cup and a half of fruity red wine? Well, I reduced that only slightly. Using wine instead of water to cook the berries is a very good idea. It makes the sauce deeply flavoured and complex and yet it isn’t overwhelmingly alcohol-y at all.
You can use frozen cranberries if you wish and you can even double it and make it ahead. What’s not to love?
Ingredients & Notes
Truly, all you need is a bag of cranberries, sugar, and orange juice and you have a delicious cranberry sauce. But with just two or three more ingredients, I think this one is the best. This red wine cranberry sauce leans on the tart side but not so tart it will cause you anguish. That said, if you like it sweeter, go ahead and add more sugar to taste. Here is what you need:
- Cranberries – You can use fresh or frozen here. I find no difference in the outcome and you don’t need to thaw if using frozen. If you find these organic cranberries, grab two bags. The bags are a little smaller so you will need two.
- Orange juice – I prefer to use the juice of a fresh orange but you can use store-bought orange juice in a pinch. A few pieces of orange zest will also add more depth of flavour.
- Brown sugar – I like to use brown sugar because it gives the cranberry sauce a bit of caramel-y flavour. You can also use white sugar, honey, or maple syrup.
- Cinnamon stick – 1 cinnamon stick adds a bit of warming flavour without being too strong.
- Red wine – Use your favourite dry red wine.
- Crystallized ginger – I add only a tablespoon of chopped crystallized ginger. If you love ginger, feel free to use up to 1/4 cup.
How To Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce
It takes very little time for the cranberries to release their pectin and cause the sauce to gel up beautifully. Start to finish, this cranberry sauce is done in less than 20 minutes. Once it chills, it should look more like jam than jelly. Here’s how to make it:
- Rinse the cranberries. Fresh cranberries should be rinsed under cold water. If using frozen, you can skip this step.
- Place all ingredients in saucepan. Combine the cranberries, orange juice, orange zest, brown sugar, cinnamon stick, red wine, and chopped crystallized ginger in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
- Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, give it an occasional stir. Once most of the cranberries have burst and the sauce has slightly thickened, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Chill. Transfer cooled sauce to a bowl or container and refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to 1 week.
Cook’s tip: Don’t overcook the sauce. Remember, the sauce will thicken slightly as it cools.
The beauty of cranberry sauce is that it is one of the first things you can scratch off your list when you have a big meal to plan. Making this red wine cranberry sauce ahead of time will also allow the flavours to meld and deepen.
Once sauce has cooled, transfer to a bowl or container and refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to 1 week. If it has thickened too much, heat it just a bit and add a little water.
You can freeze this cranberry sauce but beware it could lose some of the gelling. It will, however, still taste delicious.
Other Ways To Use Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Aside from being the perfect accompaniment to roasted turkey, this tangy-sweet sauce is delcious with chicken, pork chops, and even baked fish.
Add any leftover sauce to a charcuterie board – it’s fabulous on top of a creamy baked brie or alongside funky cheeses. Tuck the tangy sauce into turkey sandwiches or serve it alongside turkey meatballs as an appetizer. Yum!
We also enjoy leftovers with a frittata, or with these outstanding fluffy pancakes.
More Thanksgiving Recipes To Try
- Butternut Squash Soup
- Chicken (or Turkey) Pot Pie
- Roast Turkey Breast with Braised Red Cabbage
- Sweet Potato Gratin with Sage
- Haricots Verts Amandine (Green Beans with Almonds)
- Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Agrodolce Sauce
If you give this Homemade Cranberry Sauce recipe a try, please feel free to leave a comment and/or a star rating below. We appreciate and welcome all your feedback. Thank you!
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- 1 navel orange finely slice off two strips of orange peel, then juice the entire orange
- 1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries rinsed - skip is using frozen
- 1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 - 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- In a saucepan over medium high heat, combine the orange juice, orange peel, cranberries, brown sugar, red wine, crystallized ginger, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until cranberries burst and sauce has thickened, about 12 to 15 minutes.
- Transfer cranberry sauce to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover and chill before serving.