Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving: Cranberry sauce is SO easy

It seems like a big secret... how easy it is to make fresh cranberry sauce. I bought the canned stuff for many years out of convenience, but since making it fresh for the first time about two years ago, I haven't gone back to the canned stuff. But I have never heard anyone discuss just how super easy it is to make your own.

It was actually my Mom who insisted that I make it fresh and because she had already bought the fresh cranberries, I thought I should make that and let the can be stored until... forever?

Here's what you do...

STEP 1:  Rinse the cranberries to remove any debris. I also remove the rotted and unripe fruit - I bet the canning people don't do that so doing this is probably optional.

STEP 2:  Boil 1 cup of water  and 1 cup of sugar - stir to dissolve the sugar.

STEP 3: Add the 12-oz package of fresh cranberries (about 4 cups) and boil for 10 minutes. Let it cool.

And your done!

The canned stuff doesn't taste bad and in a real pinch I would still buy the canned whole berry (not the jellied). And I really can't even say that making it fresh is tastes so much better. But making it fresh does give you the option to maybe change the recipe a bit. For example you can decrease the sugar if you like it more tart. Also making it fresh gives it a nice "sauce" look, rather than that "cylinder" look, which is fine if you're going for that kind of aesthetic. Actually, I do like the look of those neat round slices. :-)

One year I added a few persimmon chunks which was delicious. But you can also add raisins, currants, nuts and other spices like nutmeg or cinnamon.

Cranberry and Lingonberry
The jar on the left is the cranberry sauce I made from fresh berries and on the right is lingonberry jam from a jar. Lingonberry grows in Scandinavia and is a popular condiment in Finnish cuisine - they eat it with meatballs and venison (along with mashed potatoes). Both the cranberry and lingonberry taste very similar, but perhaps because the lingonberry grows wild it has a little more punch of flavor. The lingonberries (called puolukka in the Finnish language) are also a lot smaller in size.

I was just in Finland in September where the berries were ripening in the autumn forests throughout the country. I ate many lingonberries straight from the low bushes that they grown on. They are not nearly as sour as cranberries so I'm guessing that not as much sugar is needed to make the jam as would be needed to make cranberry sauce - which might be the reason why the lingonberry jam packs a lot more flavor, spoon for spoon (like the boxing term "pound for pound").

Well anyway, my Finnish husband appreciates having the lingonberry jam and he loves it with his turkey - and so did everyone else.

Lingonberries in the wild

And just in case you were wondering (or not) what lingonberries look like, I've posted this photo I took just this past September while I was in Finland. There is so much growing in the forests throughout the country it does not need to be cultivated. These berries here are not quite at their peak ripeness. Another 2 or 3 more weeks they would have been a deeper, almost burgundy color.

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