This month, I’ve chosen cranberry sauce because most families have their highly-prized, top-secret recipes for their turkey, ham, stuffing, potatoes, and especially gravy. (Refer to November 2019 for my all-purpose chicken gravy/cheese sauce recipe.) Yet, I always notice that at the family table, among everyone’s finest culinary presentations, there is that one dish of maroon-colored gelatinous, can-shaped, cranberry-flavored, corn starch blob – which looks about as appetizing as a the giant blood clot that killed the Woolly Mammoth. Folks, if this applies to you, there is a severe deficit of love on that plate which resonates with sadness. You’ve suffered for long enough; it’s time for a change.
In full disclosure, this recipe is sort of a non-gourmet variation of Gordon Ramsay’s cranberry-apple sauce from his holiday special on the BBC, where he uses all fresh produce and makes difficult concepts look easy. His recipe is NOT easy. I’ve made it many times, which is why I swapped out all the fresh produce and unnecessary prep that goes with it so you can whip this up quickly with shelf-stable products. It should be made a few days ahead of being served since it takes a few days for the flavors come together. It tastes absolutely amazing, and it need not be limited to turkey dinner; it works very well inside a crepe, on a waffle, in a cobbler, or my favorite… with a Monte Cristo sandwhich!
We start by draining into a stock pot one whole liter bottle of red wine, I prefer Cabernet Sauvignon (pardon my French). Add a few spices (just a pinch of each): Bay leaf, Star Anise, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Allspice, and black peppercorns. Bring this to a boil to remove the alcohol, steep the spices, and reduce by half its volume..
You will need to sweeten things slightly, so half a cup of either caramel, honey, maple syrup, unsulfered molasses, or brown sugar are equally good. Just remember that this is supposed to be tart.
Next, fill a second pot or pan with three cans of Bold Rock Hard Cider and again bring to a boil to both reduce it and set it on the straight and narrow. At this point, you can break out your bag of Ocean Spray Craisins (dried cranberries) and dump them into the Bold Rock as it comes to a boil. This will rehydrate the cranberries and make them soft. As the hard cider reduces in volume, zest and juice three oranges into your cranberry-cider mix. Cut some of the rind up into julienne and save until the end just for visual appeal (pun intended).
Strain the red wine reduction to remove the large pieces of herbs. If both liquids have reduced enough to fit into one pot, combine them and add two packages of Knox gelatin or two tablespoons of powdered pectin. Don’t use corn starch in this or it will reduce the flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste. I prefer pink Himalayan sea salt for dishes such as this one.
I’d like to reiterate that the tartness of the berries and cider is magnificent, so taste it toward the end. I don’t think it’s possible to over power with orange, so if you prefer more orange flavor go for it, and see what your family thinks.
I’m really curious: what would you do differently? Zest a variety of citrus? Try white wine? Use mulling spices? Use only fresh cranberries? Add cherries? Blueberries? Service Berry? Oh, admit it; gardeners are the best cooks, and I really enjoy the wisdom among you, so write me a note in the Comment section.
Have a very wonderful holiday season! — Thomas Wilson