Cooking

The Cran Slam

5 cranberry sauces to make for Thanksgiving and beyond, with help from the pros
Photo: Lizzie Munro/Tasting Table
Cranberry Sauce

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We'll always hold canned versions of cranberry sauce dear to our hearts, but the possibilities for homemade cranberry sauce, both sweet and savory, are endless. Open your mind—and your spice drawer and vegetable crisper—for cranberry-forward condiments that will carry you past Thanksgiving dinner. Here's how (and why) you should do it.

Cranberry sauce is a classic. Like we said, we're a fan of the traditional turkey side, and chef Eric Korsh at New York City's North End Grill couldn't agree more. For his restaurant's Thanksgiving menu, he creates a traditional compote that's a riff on jelly out of the can, which he says "was one of my favorite things in the world" as a kid. He keeps his recipe simple with sugar and water; the pure, unadulterated sauce is a beautiful condiment for everything (seriously, everything) on the Thanksgiving table.

Sweet, tart versatility. Pastry chef Deborah Racicot at Narcissa in New York City loves using cranberries because of their acidity and color. She halves and poaches them in a syrup of sugar, water, cinnamon sticks, orange peel and rosemary. "Once they are poached, I use them in any number of dishes like apple crisps, pies, garnishes or even over ice cream."

Executive pastry chef Emily Luchetti at Marlowe in San Francisco pairs the berries with a gingerbread cake, vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. "Desserts are sweet, so it's nice to have a tart and acidic yin-yang in the mouth that really makes flavors pop." In the past, she has even used the preserves in a linzer torte, complementing the dessert's buttery, nutty pastry dough.

At Eleven Madison Park in New York City, executive pastry chef Mark Welker makes a good point that cranberries have a bright flavor in the months when there isn't much fruit around. His nod to the canned jelly is to make a consommé and set it with pectin.

It plays nicely with booze. Talk about a cranberry cocktail: Racicot adds a splash of bourbon to her side-dish sauce after the berries have been cooking in sugar, orange juice and cinnamon, while Luchetti gently poaches the berries in water to plump up, then adds a shot of rum and lets them soak for a day before serving on her gingerbread dessert.

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Make nice with spice. After you've had your share of classic cranberry sauce, think outside the bog. Cranberries pack a ton of natural pectin and acid, and with a little added sugar and cooking, have the ability to become a perfect compote, sauce, chutney or even sorbet.

And don't forget, they're a superfood. Cranberries have a high concentration of antioxidants, especially vitamin C, and help squash free radicals and detoxify the liver. What does this mean to you? They help your body bounce back from overindulging in holiday fare. Cheers to an extra helping of turkey and another cocktail.

—Make It Classic—

3 c cranberries + ¾ c water + ½ c sugar + ½ tsp vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine the cranberries, water and sugar. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat, 4 minutes. Uncover and cook at a low boil, stirring occasionally until most of the berries have burst, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

—Make It Smoky—

2 tsp olive oil + 1 shallot, minced + pinch kosher salt + ½ tsp ground cumin + 3 c cranberries + ¾ c water + ¼ c sugar + 3 tbsp chipotle in adobo + 1 lime (zest and juice)

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with the salt and cumin, and cook another minute, then stir in the cranberries, water and sugar. Cover and bring to a boil, 3 minutes, then uncover and add the chipotle in adobo. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime zest and juice. Let cool slightly then pureé in a blender until smooth; strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Makes 1 cup.

—Make It Marmalade—

1 Meyer lemon + 1 blood orange + 1 small grapefruit + 3 c cranberries + ½ c sugar

Scrub the lemon, blood orange and grapefruit clean, then peel their skins into strips using a vegetable peeler. Scrape away any pith, then thinly slice the zest (⅓ cup) and place into a small saucepan. Juice the citrus (¾ cup) and add to the zest along with the cranberries and sugar. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, 4 minutes. Uncover and cook at a low boil, stirring occasionally until most of the berries have burst, 5 minutes more. Makes 2½ cups.

—Make It Fruitcake—

3 c cranberries + ¾ c water + ½ c sugar + ¼ c currants + 2 tbsp chopped candied ginger + 2 tsp maple syrup + ½ tsp ground allspice + 2 tsp bourbon

In a medium saucepan, combine all of the ingredients except the bourbon. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, 4 minutes. Uncover and cook at a low boil, stirring occasionally, until most of the berries have burst, 5 minutes more. Stir in the bourbon and cook another 30 seconds. Makes a scant 2 cups.

—Make It Chutney—

1½ c cranberries, divided + ⅓ c apple cider vinegar + ⅓ c water + ½ c light brown sugar + 1 grated carrot + 1 grated shallot + ¼ c chopped dried apricots + ¼ c golden raisins + ¾ tsp ground cumin + ½ tsp ground coriander + ½ tsp whole mustard seeds + ¼ tsp ground turmeric + pinch kosher salt & pepper

In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of the cranberries with the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook to meld the flavors, 5 minutes. Add the remaining cranberries and simmer until they just begin to burst, 5 minutes. Makes a scant 2 cups.

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