Ok, what’s red and goopy, and only appears on your table twice a year? Ya-huh, the cranberry sauce. Why do we buy it? ‘Cause it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner without it. So what if no one touches it and we throw it (and the old butter container it’s plopped into) out somewhere in the middle of January, still virtually undisturbed, it’s tradition! But here’s the secret--it’s super-easy to make it at home and so much better than what you get from those cans. Once mixed, it can sit quietly on the back of your stove while you hustle the yams under the broiler, pull out the stuffing, and whip up the mashed potatoes and gravy. Or make it a couple of days in advance and keep it tightly covered in the refrigerator. Either way, if anyone does venture a taste, she is sure to be suitably impressed, and you'll only have taken a few short steps.
Here’s what you do:
- Rinse about 1 lb of fresh cranberries and remove any pieces of stem or leaf.
- Add cranberries, ½ cup water or orange juice, ¾ cup sugar, zest from one small lemon and one tangerine or small orange (be careful not to grate the pith--white stuff--into the pot, or it will make it bitter), pinch of salt, and a sprig of Thyme (try a Bay Leaf if you’re out of Thyme) to a medium saucepan.
- Stir, then cook on low heat, covered. Stir periodically, and remove when the berries have burst and the mixture looks like cranberry sauce (about 40 minutes).
- Remove from heat, discard the Thyme, and serve warm or cold.
This makes about what you’d get from one can. Remember that cranberries are naturally tart, so more sugar or less lemon zest may suit your taste. Also, it is easy to embellish this recipe, adding diced or grated granny smith apple or pomegranate seeds; even a handful of chopped pecans or walnuts, if they’re laying around, left over from another holiday recipe. Cranberry sauce is one element of a feast that is easy enough to make and has a flavor that makes it well worth the effort.