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Long story short, I used to buy canned cranberry sauce, now I don’t. Up until recently, I would just pop a can open on Thanksgiving and call it a day. There’s no shame in eating (and liking) canned cranberry sauce. The reason why I like to make my own homemade cranberry sauce though is because it’s super easy, less processed and I can spike it! And I get to choose between a loose or more jellied texture.
Truthfully, I don’t care very much for alcohol, but I do like how it enhances the taste of certain things. We can also pretend that this spiked version of fresh homemade cranberry sauce will take the edge off of Thanksgiving dinner, but truthfully the liquor is cooked off. The alcohol is just added for flavor. Don’t let that discourage you because this stuff is delicious!
A few surprising things about cranberry sauce:
- There’s no gelatin in it – the jelly like texture is natural and achieved by cooking it.
- There’s no red dye – cranberries naturally have a deep and beautiful color.
Who knew right? I don’t even think that the canned varieties have gelatin or dye. But what canned cranberry sauce does have is high-fructose corn syrup. It’s added because it’s an inexpensive alternative to sugar, and it has an indefinite shelf-life.
Why you should make homemade cranberry sauce:
Homemade sauce made with fresh cranberries tastes better, is quick and easy to make and you have more control over the texture and the amount of sugar. I’m not gonna lie, I don’t skimp on the amount of sugar in this recipe, but you can always use less than the recipe calls for. Although the triple-sec adds a nice touch, you can omit that too. Just substitute more orange juice in its place if you’re leaving it out.
- Fresh cranberries – they’re super-inexpensive and easy to find during the holidays. You’ll need a 12 ounce bag.
- Orange juice – many cranberry sauce recipes call for water but I like to use a citrus base for my cranberry sauce
- Triple-sec – this is an orange-flavored liquer
- Brown sugar – for sweetness
- Ground cloves and orange peels enhance the flavor of this cranberry sauce
Step 1: Rinse and drain the cranberries
The first thing I do is wash the cranberries and set them aside. Look how beautiful they are!
Step 2: Combine the brown sugar, triple sec and orange juice
Next you want to combine the orange juice, triple-sec, and brown sugar in a deep sauce pan and bring the ingredients to a boil.
Step 3: Cook the cranberry sauce
Add the cranberries, orange peel and cloves and watch the fun begin! As the mixture starts to cook you’re gonna hear those little cranberries start to pop. Don’t let this startle you like it did me the first time I made cranberry sauce. Keep the flame slightly below medium, and use a deeper sauce pan to prevent any splattering.
The cranberries will start to burst as the liquid boils. You’ll notice the cranberry sauce get thicker in texture and deeper in color as the berries break down. I remove the orange peels once the cranberry sauces starts to get very thick and dark. If you’re using zest rather than peels, you don’t have to take anything out.
After about 15-20 minutes, your cranberry sauce will look like the photo below. Deep in color and thick but still a little bit loose. This is the texture that I like my cranberry sauce.
If you want more of a jelly-like texture you can cook it up to 25 minutes. The sauce will have more of smooth texture versus what’s shown in these photos. Keep in mind that the cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.
Regardless of whether you stop at the 15 minute mark or go longer, the result is a sweet, tart and zesty cranberry sauce! Get ready to show off.
Step 4: Chill and serve
Ideally cranberry sauce should chill in the refrigerator for about 2-3 hours before serving. You can serve it as is, or garnish it with some sage or rosemary and an orange slice.
Believe me when I say that this cranberry sauce will be a shining star at dinner! Although it only requires a few simple ingredients and steps, homemade spiked cranberry sauce is impressive AF!