Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cranberry Sauce — Simple, as in Syrup

Ready to cool and gel in the fridge
When I was growing up, I was given the task of chopping up the cranberries and the orange for the cranberry relish. I also got to open the can for the cranberry sauce. Eventually my family went to using the whole berry sauce, which I guess was a step in the right direction. Maybe.

Many years later, long after I had left my parents’ home, I learned that it’s easy to make whole berry cranberry sauce yourself. This is another one of those things where the recipe is on the back of the package, nobody every looks at it. Also, I suspect that people assume that this is going to be a whole lot of work, but it’s really simple.

A “simple syrup” is just 1 cup of sugar dissolved in 1 cup of water. Oh, simple. We have to go a little more complex than that, because cooking this stuff in sugar water is kinda boring. You need to amp it up just a little. You have a choice of liquids: cranberry juice (not cocktail) or red wine.
Just in the pot and starting to pop.

I always go with the wine. Just a cheap red. A cup of sugar goes into a saucepan to which you add a cup of wine. Heat, stir to dissolve, and bring to a low simmer. You need to clean and sort the cranberries, and they go into the syrup. Bring it back to a boil, then simmer for about 15—20 minutes. Keep the heat gentle. Some of the cranberries will pop as they heat; you don’t want a mixture of wine and cranberry juice spattering everywhere.

You could go fancier with this. You could spice it, adding a couple teaspoons of ginger, a teaspoon of cinnamon, but I find that the spicing doesn’t add that much (unless you lean on the ginger) But that’s really it. If things don’t gel enough for your liking (though they will gel more when they cool), you can take the cranberries out and reduce things a bit. You probably won’t need to.

Once they're done, transfer them to a bowl and let them cool, uncovered at first, in the refrigerator. They'll keep for some days, although they're certainly tempting to have alongside all sorts of things.

It is better than the stuff that comes out of the cans? Oh yes. Is it easier than opening a can? No, of course not. But it’s not that much more difficult.

This is also one of those great make-ahead items. It’s quick and easy, but you want to let it cool before you eat it (not that I haven’t served up a side of warm cranberry sauce on occasion). You can make it (and your relish) a couple of days in advance.

When I wrote about cranberry relish, I failed to note: cranberries are good for you. Think of it that way. No need to wait until Thanksgiving.
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