This cranberry sauce is perfectly sweet and tart, prepared with fresh cranberries and finely diced Bartlett pears. And with the addition of orange and warm spices, it's a burst of refreshing flavor for your holiday spread!
Cranberry Sauce, the Sweet and Tangy Holiday Side
With the wonderful bounty of scrumptious dishes that we place upon our holiday tables—golden turkey, scrumptious stuffing, savory green bean casserole, creamy mashed potatoes—it's easy to see why cranberry sauce is so often overlooked, or dolloped onto the edge of a plate as almost an afterthought.
When served as slices from a cranberry sauce “log”, or spooned out of a can in a slightly thick, somewhat gluey mass, I can totally understand that it is not necessarily the most appealing thing on the table to reach for.
But the good news is, it doesn't have to be that way!
What if I were to tell you that fresh and juicy homemade cranberry sauce, glistening with beautiful ruby-red color and filled with lots of spicy sweet-tartness, literally takes mere minutes to prepare?
Believe it or not, it can actually be the brilliant centerpiece of your holiday spread, the kind that folks will enthusiastically (and generously!) spoon onto their already over-flowing plates!
If this sounds utterly appealing, then I've got just the recipe for you, and it'll give your tasty holiday spread a slightly “gourmet” twist!
Homemade Cranberry sauce
When it comes to homemade cranberry sauce, just sticking to the basics (fresh cranberries, sugar, water) will of course yield delicious results.
But I like to get a bit creative and make my cranberry sauce even more enticing, juicy and flavorful. This ensures every bite will pair perfectly with those other richer and more savory staples on the table.
So I opt to add in ripe Bartlett pears, along with some orange zest, and a touch of cinnamon; and rather than using plain water, I use freshly squeezed orange juice (I simply squeeze out the the juice from the orange I use for zest) for a touch of natural sweetness.
And because I personally appreciate a good “spiked” cranberry sauce, I finish my (adult) version with a little drizzle of an orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau, but this is completely optional.
Also, cranberries naturally contain pectin. So once the sauce is simmered for a handful of minutes and then allowed to cool, it thickens up naturally for a glossy, saucy consistency. No need for any added thickeners!
This combination of ingredients paired with fresh cranberries offers a nice chunky consistency and a pop of spice, which is flavor perfection for the holiday table!
How to Make Cranberry Sauce
- Add all of the ingredients (except for the cinnamon) into a sauce pan, place over medium-high heat, and bring things up to a vigorous boil.
- Stir the ingredients to help the sugar to dissolve, and allow the mixture to simmer for about 6-8 minutes on medium heat, or until the cranberries begin to pop and release their natural juices and break down. (I'm not looking to over-cook the mixture until it becomes too mushy.)
- Once most of the cranberries have burst and are softening, turn the heat off, pour the mixture into a glass bowl (note that it will still be quite "liquid-y" at this stage), stir in the cinnamon, and allow the cranberry sauce to cool completely, stirring occasionally. (I typically place it into the fridge to expedite things at this point.)
- Once completely cooled, the sauce will be thickened, and it can conveniently be kept in the fridge until ready to serve. (And if I'm “spiking” my cranberry sauce with the orange liqueur, this is the point at which I add that in.)
Tips & Tidbits for Perfect Cranberry Sauce:
- Fresh or frozen whole cranberries: I love that either fresh or frozen cranberries can be used to prepare this cranberry sauce! I even buy extra bags of cranberries when they’re in season and freeze them, and use those to make my sauce. There's no need to thaw in that case, just use as you would the fresh ones. But when I do have fresh cranberries available, I prefer to use those.
- Add in other seasonal fresh fruit: For this recipe I like to use a couple of ripe Bartlett pears that I peel and dice into very small chunks. I've also used a combo of pears and apples. If you go that route, choose a softer apple such as a Macintosh. You can also dice up half of a peeled, fresh small orange.
- Spice is nice: Simply using ground cinnamon is delicious in this sauce, but you can certainly substitute pumpkin pie spice, allspice, a touch of cloves, or even use star anise for a totally different flavor profile.
- Orange juice or water: While I opt for orange juice in this cranberry sauce recipe, you can simply use water instead, no problem.
- To spike or not to spike: If you're preparing this sauce for an “adult” crowd, adding about 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of orange liqueur to your cooled sauce is super delicious and slightly more refined; but this is completely optional, so leave it out if preparing for a crowd that includes kids.
- Prepare ahead: You can prepare this recipe a few days ahead and keep it in a covered container until ready to serve!
Feast your eyes on these, or just jump to the recipe:
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 6
Nutrition Info: 139 calories
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 8 minutes
Total time: 18 minutes
• 12 ounce bag fresh (or frozen) whole cranberries
• 2 small ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and finely diced
• Zest of 1 small orange
• ¾ cup orange juice (or water, or a combo of both)
• ½ cup granulated sugar
• ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 ½ tablespoons Grand Marnier orange liqueur (optional, if making “spiked” sauce)
-Add all of the ingredients up to and including the granulate sugar to a medium-size pot, and stir to combine.
-Turn the heat on medium-high to high, and bring the mixture to a rapid simmer; reduce the heat to medium and cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring every now and again to move the cranberries around, until the cranberries begin to pop, split and soften, releasing their juices.
-Pour the sauce into a clean bowl, and stir in the cinnamon; allow to cool completely. (If making a “spiked” cranberry sauce, stir in the orange liqueur once cooled.)
-Store the sauce in a covered container in the fridge to keep chilled (can be made a few days ahead of time), and serve cold.
Cook's Note: This recipe was originally published in 2012, and has been updated with even more love!