Homemade cranberry sauce recipes frequently call for full cups of sugar so you wind up making more of a super sweet jam than a sauce that tastes like the fruit you used. I much prefer to taste the ingredients I went to the trouble of preparing. The tartness of cranberries provides an essential juxtaposition to the heavy richness in the rest of the Thanksgiving meal.
I know you grew up sliding your cranberry sauce out of a can. Jellied cranberry sauce with, its iconic ridges, was proudly displayed on my family’s Thanksgiving table too. I’m also sure, by now you have gotten the message, homemade cranberry sauce is the best cranberry sauce. It is by-far the easiest traditional Thanksgiving side dish to make yourself. In its most basic form all you need a few cups of cranberries, some liquid, and something to sweeten the tart berries. From there you have a blank canvas to put your own stamp on the recipe.
One of my favorite ways to personalize cranberry sauce is by adding another fruit to the mixture. Fresh cranberries are very assertive. Their flavor will shine over almost any other fruit you might use, but the second fruit can still play a big part.
From the perspective of a healthy eater aiming to keep her same pants size through the holidays, the addition of another fruit to cranberry sauce is a easy way to stay on track. Fruit gives homemade cranberry sauce more body and texture so it can hold its own along side the other side dishes on your holiday plate. More fruit also adds volume, making this lower calorie item more filling to help you eat a little less of the high calorie items. Finally, and this is my favorite reason, fruits like apples, oranges, or pears in your homemade cranberry sauce provide a natural sweetness reducing or eliminating the need for additional sugar – thus increasing the nutritional value.
This cranberry sauce recipe ticks all of the boxes. The cranberries are allowed to be tart but the tanginess is softened by the subtle sweetness of pears, orange, and a touch of agave. Fresh ginger gives the finished sauce a bit of celebratory spice to perfectly compliment any holiday roast from turkey to lamb to prime rib. Go a little more savory and festive and include some fresh rosemary to really make the sauce sing.
- 1lb (2-3) ripe pears, diced
- ½ cup liquid (see notes)
- 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 1 tbsp orange zest
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 cup fresh cranberries
- 2 tbsp agave (may substitute honey, from bees, or maple syrup, from trees)
- optional: 1 tbsp of finely minced fresh rosemary
- In a medium sauce pan, combine the pears, water, ginger, orange zest and salt. Simmer over medium heat until the pears begin to soften, approximately 15 minutes, stir frequently.
- Add the cranberries and agave and continue cooking and stirring frequently, until the cranberries have softened and most have popped. The mixture should look like a crimson applesauce, approximately 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low to prevent boiling. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. The sauce will thicken as it cools.
- Once cooled store refrigerated, in a sealed container. The sauce may be made several days in advance and should keep for more than a week.
To give your sauce a little more zing, add a few tablespoons of apple cider or white wine vinegar to the mixture just make sure to keep the total amount of liquid to ½ cup.