For many years, the only cranberry sauce I knew of was the kind shaped like a can. I LOVED it! It was like eating jelly out of a jar with a spoon. I didn’t like it ON anything, I never was that person who mixed all their food together and covered every square centimeter of their plate with gravy. No way. I was the kid with the divided plate….until I was 30. I didn’t like my food to touch. I would even shoe it away with my fork if anything looked like it was about to merge with another food.
For that reason, I never really knew the joy of the “After-Thanksgiving Sandwich” the way I do now. And it all started with the canned cranberry sauce…because I knew no other. I was brave one day (or intoxicated) and mixed some of the cranberry sauce with some mayonnaise….next think I knew I was grilling my turkey sandwich with the cranberry mayo, stuffing and gravy. It was crazy! And ridiculously amazing! I lived on the edge back then…can you tell?
Then I saw a local talk show make a fresh cranberry sauce….from real cranberries. I was so intrigued because the only time I ever used fresh cranberries was to make a popcorn garland in an effort to get extra credit in Mr. Heyser’s math class. (Yeah, I still don’t get how that was math related.) I remember the cranberries were as hard as a rock. I had to try this recipe…it looked so easy….and fun! And the popping sound the cranberries were making made me happy. Weird, I know. But I was so interested in seeing how it was even a possibility to turn these little pebbles into something sweet and tart and, well, happy.
The recipe on the talk show used orange juice, sugar and cranberries. It was pretty good but over the years as I learned what the heck I was doing in the kitchen I tweaked it and revamped it and finally settled on this version. This is an adaptation of Ina Garten’s Cranberry Compote. What I loved about this version is the fresh citrus juice and the chunky apples, it gives it more depth of flavor than just straight orange juice. She also adds raisins and nuts but I leave them out. It didn’t translate well into my “day after” sandwich and, honestly, everyone who has tried both versions found them totally unnecessary.
So, this is it…this is my Easy Cranberry Sauce. It takes no time at all and you can make it several days in advance. Just remember to bring it out when you’re serving dinner because I’m going on three years in a row forgetting about it until my guests are finished eating.
Easy Cranberry Sauce
Makes 3 1/2 cups
1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 orange, zest and juice
1 lemon, zest and juice
In a large saucepan, cook the cranberries, sugar and 1 cup of water over low heat until the skins begin to pop open, approximately 5 minutes. Stir in the apples, zest, and juices and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.