For the Love of Cranberry Sauce

I need a post just to talk about my favorite Thanksgiving food: cranberry sauce.  Yes, I know what you are thinking.  Cranberry sauce is your favorite?  It’s not even a real side dish.  It is like the side dish to the side dish.  I’m telling you it is the best though.

Cranberry sauce is so versatile.  Not only can you find so many variations of this dish, but it goes with just about any part of the Thanksgiving meal.  I will eat cranberry sauce on turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, bread, and probably even with certain vegetables if we are feeling really wild.  I mean it when I say I really love cranberry sauce.  My family normally reserves a bowl of it just for me at our Thanksgiving dinner because I eat so much of it.

When I was growing up, I really loved the congealed stuff that came out of the can.  I seriously adored that processed sugary crap.  If I am being honest, I’d probably still devour it.  I definitely ate my fair share of it during college at our annual Cafsgiving meal.  I do much prefer eating homemade cranberry sauce though, especially when I am the one making it.

I have made homemade cranberry sauce for the last few Thanksgivings, basically since I moved out on my own.  It has remained my guaranteed contribution to our family’s Thanksgiving meal, since I am the person who cares most about it and no one else in my immediate family can make cranberry sauce.

Last year, my aunt gave me her recipe for cranberry sauce.  This is a homemade cranberry sauce that I have eaten since I was young.  Whether we were going to her house in Ohio for Thanksgiving or she came to our house in PA, I knew I could rely on her to bring her amazing cranberry sauce.  Last year though, she was coming to our house, and I made the cranberry sauce following her recipe.  It turned out great last year, and I got my aunt’s stamp of approval, so I decided to make it again this year.

I was planning on making my cranberry sauce before heading home for the holiday, but this week (despite only being two days of work) was another exhausting one for me.  I just didn’t have the energy to make my cranberry sauce last night after work.  I rarely have energy for much outside of work if I am being honest.  It is really frustrating.  I just don’t feel like I am really living.  The basic parts of my day take so much out of me.  It is this never-ending cycle for me.  I want to believe that my life can be more than dragging myself from day to day, but I still haven’t found a solution to my energy and motivation deficiencies, even after taking a step back at work.

Nevertheless, I knew I was driving home today, so if I didn’t get it done last night, I had to make it when I got to my parents’ house.  It was one more thing to do, but it honestly isn’t too time consuming.  I packed up the ingredients I had already bought to make this tonight.

My aunt’s cranberry sauce also has apples and oranges in it, which helps balance out the bitterness and tartness of the cranberries.  Since I am such a fan of cranberries though, I actually doubled the cranberries, but kept the same amount of the other fruits.  I do want a little tart punch to my cranberry sauce.  I am just hoping I used enough sugar for this not to be too tart for everyone else.

Cranberries are a deceiving fruit.  The color red (especially in fruit) gives the allure of something sweet.  The redder a fruit it, the more sweet we expect it to be.  However, if you bite into a raw cranberry, you should expect it to taste anything but sweet.  Instead, cranberries are shockingly tart.  That is why cranberry sauce has so much sugar in it.

Cranberry sauce is not hard to make.  You just need to dump everything into a sauce pan and cook it until the cranberries start to pop.  Then, continue to cook for just a couple minutes more.  You don’t want to over cook it.  Some people might like to put their cranberry sauce in a blender and make it smooth, but I like mine chunky with some of the cranberries still mostly in tact.

Normally, I let the hot sauce sit for a while at room temperature in whatever container I am storing it in before refrigerating it.  This normally allows the fruit to continue breaking down.  As the mixture cools, I find that the sweet notes come out more.  Then, I keep it in the fridge until serving.  It can stay in the fresh in the fridge for several days.

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My other main tip would be to make this at least a day in advance.  The night before Thanksgiving will work fine.  I just wouldn’t wait until the day of Thanksgiving if you are planning on serving this cold.  It takes quite awhile for the cranberry sauce to cool in the fridge.  Even after making it today after dinner, I went back in the fridge to check on it before bed, and it was still warm.  I feel confident it will be chilled by our meal tomorrow.  I just hope it tastes as good as it looks! (My taste test of the warm sauce was up to my taste, but we shall see).

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