So maybe you think cranberry sauce is a once-a-year Thanksgiving thing. Somehow, most of us have relegated one of the most delicious parts (maybe our favorite part?) of Thanksgiving to that single yearly meal. But traditionally, cranberries and cranberry sauce are a holiday thing—as in not just Thanksgiving.
Yes, our homemade cranberry sauce is a huge crowd-pleaser at the Thanksgiving table. It comes out and there’s chanting and cheering. A brass band appears out of nowhere every time you lift the serving spoon. A cranberry sauce shrine was once contemplated. But real talk: We’ve got jars of the good stuff in our fridge right now that we’re spooning over toast, ice cream, turkey sandwiches, and more because we always make extra. But once December hits, we tend to forget that cranberries are good for anything for the rest of the year besides making garlands that stain our hands and sometimes bannisters (woops). Fact is: all those traditional holiday meals of turkey, duck, ham, etc. that you see in Rockwellian images and read about in Dickens novels—they’re all accompanied by cranberry sauce, too! It even looks the part: what holiday table wouldn’t look nicer with a bowl of the beautiful, garnet red sauce?
Maybe you, like The Waitresses, know this already. Maybe you already have cranberry sauce with your winter holiday feasts. But even if you DO, we have one question for you: Does your cranberry sauce have grapefruit zest and tequila in it?
If your answer was, “If the canned stuff has grapefruit and tequila in it, then YES,” keep that one to yourself because cranberry sauce is just about the easiest thing you can make. (Seriously, if you’ve never made your own cranberry sauce: This is your moment. Embrace it. You won’t believe how sillily easy it is and how much better it tastes than anything store bought.)
Our homemade cranberry sauce is one of those things we look forward to all year—first the smell filling our house, the opening herald of the holiday season, putting us right into holiday readiness (which is all), bringing us back to every holiday kitchen and table with that one smell, back to walking in from school to find it cooking on the stove and burning our tongue on a stolen scoop, back to every memory that that smell wraps up, and bringing all of them forward into that kitchen, too…. And then: we eat it.
Our basic recipe stays the same year after year: tart and bright and not at all too sweet. Too often, people strangle fruit in sauces with too much sugar—why? Presumably, you put the fruit in there to TASTE it, so…let’s have it! As you may have guessed, our recipe has less sugar than most recipes out there. But trust us: it’s just the right amount. This is one of the things that makes it not only so great, but so versatile. Aside from the usual holiday meats, you should definitely try it spread on scones and pancakes, served with pork or sweet potatoes, dolloped on cakes and yogurt and ice cream—anything you can think of. It ALSO makes a truly wonderful (and easy) present or hostess gift. Nothing like getting a jar of something homemade to make someone smile—especially if it’s really, really good. Every year, this less sugary version wins new cranberry sauce converts and turns old cranberry sauce lovers to loving a new recipe.
But this recipe is versatile in another way, too: it lends itself oh so well to any number of flavor tweaks. Some years we go the orange and bourbon route, other years, it’s rosemary and vodka. But this year: tequila and grapefruit, super fresh and zesty. And may we say, we think it’s damn near perfect.
So hurry up and hoard some cranberries already because believe it or not, we’re actually nearing the end of cranberry season. Buy a bunch of bags before they’re gone and freeze them. (Don’t thaw before cooking.) Frozen, they will keep for about a year… which means: cranberry sauce all year round? GREAT!
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Tequila + Grapefruit Cranberry Sauce
Makes about 8 cups
– 4 bags rinsed and picked over cranberries, stems removed and shriveled or squishy berries discarded
– 4 cups water
– 3 cups granulated sugar
– 1/8 tsp ground cloves
– Zest and juice of one large grapefruit
– 1/2 cup silver tequila
* Combine the water and sugar in a large pot over medium-high heat.
* Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the ground cloves. Let it simmer for a minute or two.
* Add the cranberries. When the pot starts to boil, reduce heat to medium. Simmer uncovered about 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the most of the berries pop and the sauce has thickened a bit. It will thicken more as it cools.
* Remove from heat. Stir in the zest, grapefruit juice, and tequila.
* Allow to cool to room temperature and transfer to jars with lids. (Or can them doing all the right canning stuff, if you like!)
* Refrigerate until serving or giving. Without official canning, it will keep for about 10 days to 2 weeks in a jar or sealed container in the fridge.
© 2015 Lee and Lou Cook. All rights reserved