Homemade Spicy Cranberry Sauce

If you like canned cranberry sauce, you'll love the taste of your own homemade version. Homemade cranberry sauce has a sweet-tart flavor that is the perfect foil for mild tasting fowl like turkey. It has a fresher and brighter flavor than the canned varieties I've tried. It's also super easy to make. I have four variations on basic homemade cranberry sauce that amp up the taste and add a hint of exotic (or fresh herb garden) goodness.

Don't let another holiday go by without making your own cranberry sauce. In fact, try all four variations and package them in small jars to give away as hostess gifts. You can easily make enough for all your holiday visits -- or dinners -- in an hour or two.

Making a holiday classic from scratch, whether it is spice cake, fruit cake or cranberry sauce, is one way to revitalize your feelings for the season. It's hard to stay grumpy or depressed when your kitchen smells so good.

You can use apple juice, cranberry juice or orange juice as a base for cranberry sauce. All work well, but the apple juice makes for a less tart (and slightly less interesting) sauce overall. I've provided a basic recipe below and then added my favorite variations. This is an easy recipe, and I've tried lots of different ingredient pairings with it over the years. Once you know the ropes, experiment. Adding orange liqueur is nice. Homemade lemon vodka works well too. Just substitute about a quarter of a cup for the liquid requirement. Sometimes I even add stevia juice for a low calorie option.

Basic Homemade Cranberry Sauce
  • 1 cup juice (apple or orange is traditional, but you can probably add just about anything that can tolerate boiling)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
Directions for Basic Cranberry Sauce

  • Wash berries thoroughly and remove stem pieces. Set aside.
  • Combine juice and sugar in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Add cranberries and bring back to a boil until berries pop. This should take five minutes or less.
  • Mash berries lightly. (I use a wooden spoon.)
  • Cool and refrigerate.
This is about as basic as it gets, so add some zest with these interesting variations. I like them all:

Cranberry Sauce with Lime

Orange is pretty traditional in cranberry sauce because it works well. Lime seems to be the citrus fruit of choice in cooking these days, though, so I've added it as an alternative option. It does seem to add a nice bite that's naughty but nice. For this one, all you need to do is add 1/2 teaspoon lime zest to the basic recipe along with 2 tablespoons of lime juice and another tablespoon and a half of sugar. Prefer orange juice as a base.

Ginger Cranberry Sauce

Add 2 teaspoons of grated ginger to the boiling berries just before removing them from the heat. Stir to incorporate.

Cardamom Cranberry Sauce

If you haven't tried cardamom, it's hard to describe. It has an old world, spicy flavor that's a real treat and works well with cranberries. It's a bit expensive, but if you plan on making rum toddies (I'll share an amazing recipe later), it's worth the investment, so buy some ground cardamom now and include it in your cranberry creation. Include 1/2-teaspoon grated orange zest and 1/4-teaspoon ground cardamom with the berries in the basic recipe above.

Mint Cranberry Sauce

Add 1 tablespoon of minced fresh mint leaves. I prefer apple mint or spearmint, but just about any mint will do. Incorporate the leaves into the berry mixture during the last couple of minutes of cooking. If you don't like the look of little green bits in your sauce, you can add eight large, whole mint leaves to the juice and sugar mixture (for this one, apple juice is best), simmer for 5 minutes, cool and strain out the mint before proceeding to the basic recipe. Add back a couple of teaspoons of water to make up liquid evaporated off while you simmered the leaves. The juice may turn slightly green, but that won't spoil the bright ruby look of the finished dish.

Well, that's it for now. This year I'm trying a honey, allspice and cinnamon version. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Whether you make cranberry sauce or not, if you celebrate the U.S. version of Thanksgiving, have a wonderful holiday.

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