Maple Cranberry Sauce / by Chelsea Zwieg

Let me cut to the chase: I think cranberry sauce is the BEST part of Thanksgiving dinner. Excluding dessert because that is obviously my favorite part of any meal. I like to let it mix in a little bit with everything. It makes the turkey less dry, veggies more exciting and I'm not even going to try to figure out why mashed potatoes and cranberries are good just works. For years I stayed away from cranberry sauce because it was that gelatinous red log that comes straight from a can and bears no resemblance to anything that can call itself a cranberry. But in more recent years we have had the real deal. Cranberries, cooked to perfection in a sauce with texture, flavor and no specific shape. 

This cranberry sauce is a little different from what I have been downing by the bowlful in Thanksgivings past. I wanted to create one with a more dynamic flavor, something a little more than just cranberries and white sugar. So I read pretty much every cranberry recipe I could find, took all the parts I liked and made my ideal cranberry sauce. I used a combination of brown sugar and maple syrup as the sweetener which gives sweetness but also a taste beyond just sweet. I also added orange zest and a few tablespoons of orange juice along with the water. If you want a more prominent orange flavor, you can use all orange juice but I like the half and half method so that the citrus flavor as more of a background thing. After it all cooks down I stir in some extra cranberries and cook them for minute or so longer. This gives nice little pops of tartness throughout the sauce and some texture beyond just jelly-like. 

Obviously this is a Thanksgiving recipe but really, why do we save cranberry sauce for one day of the year? It's cranberry season, so I vote for working it into more things that just a plate of turkey. I used pretty much all of this sauce in my new obsession of spinach, cheese and cranberry sauce quesadillas. I know it sounds so weird but just try it and you will love your life forever. 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everybody! I am so thankful for each and every one of you and the fact that you actually come to read my recipes and listen to me ramble on about every thought that crosses my mind. I couldn't be luckier :) 

Maple Cranberry Sauce

| Ingredients

  • 12 oz. cranberries 
  • 1 tbsp. loosely packed orange zest
  • 2 tbsp. fresh orange juice
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

| Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients, except for 1/2 cup of the cranberries, in a saucepan and over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries soften, about 5 minutes.
  • Increase the heat to a medium and cook until the cranberries have popped and sauce is thick, 10-12 minutes. Be sure to stir often to prevent any burning/sticking to the pan. Stir in the reserved 1/2 cup cranberries and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, until those just begin to soften.
  • Add salt and additional sugar, to taste. This sauce can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.