My almost 16 year old son (excuse me while I hyperventilate a bit over that one…) has -year after year- requested a giant Thanksgiving style feast on his birthday that falls about a week and a half before Thanksgiving. It’s his favourite meal of the year and he sees no reason to be confined to having it only once. He also sees no problem with having the gigantic meal twice in one month.
…And he knows what he likes.
Since he was able to say so, the thing he has grabbed for first from the table is the bowl of cranberry sauce. It has to be smooth. He and I both feel strongly about this. Even though Martha and legions of foodies present the beautiful relishes and whole berry sauces with the recognizable berries peeking out of it, I continue to hew the middle-America, smooth, quivering, ruby-red, can-shaped tube of sauce like the one I grew up eating. My son loves this version the very best, too. Is it nostalgia? Perhaps… but it’s what I like.
…And I know what I like.
But what I like very best of all is this homemade Jellied Cranberry Sauce. It has all the punch of fresh cranberries, less sugar, and a hint of orange juice all in a smooth, jelled package. Ah. Now, THIS is a good thing. That Gobble Gobble jar is just for my son. Once it has been chilled, he will sit down with a spoon and a cat-eating-yellow-jacket grin and dig in with many happy sighs.
It can be umolded like it’s cousin-in-a-can by gently running a little hot water over the outside of the jar, running a flexible, thin spatula around the inside of the jar, and plopping it onto a plate or into a bowl. If you use super fresh cranberries (not frozen) it’ll be as firm as it’s commercial counterpart. If you use frozen berries it may be just a wee touch softer set. It is still marvelous either way.
Do I have to can it?
The short answer is no. If you’re can-phobic, you can certainly pour it into jars, put the lids in place, and refrigerate it up to 10 days before serving. While I’ve not tried freezing it, I imagine the taste would hold up beautifully in the freezer. Would the jel? Couldn’t say.
Can I can it?
The short answer here is yes. I can this every year. EVERY YEAR. Make sure it’s well chilled before attempting the unmolding process. Sometimes canning can break down the pectin a wee bit. It’ll still be sauce, it just might be a little saucier than you anticipated. After canning, ours is often more like a very thick set jelly than a hard gel. I say this makes it better for spreading on leftover turkey sandwiches. The great advantage to canning it is that you can store it on pantry shelves for up to a year! Given the facts that cranberries are usually on wicked sale this time of year, and that we eat it year ’round, it makes sense to make it in massive quantities and can it up.
Why make it from scratch when I can buy it?
One more short answer and then I’ll stop with the short answers: because you can. Ahem. Sorry. But really, I do this because I like the taste better, I like the fact that I know what went into it, and I like that it’s less sweet than the commercial counterpart.
- 4 (12 ounce) bags fresh cranberries
- 4 cups sugar (I use raw sugar)
- The juice of one orange plus enough water to equal 4 cups
- The zest of 1 orange
- Combine the sugar, orange juice, and water in big stockpot over high heat. Bring to a boil. Add the cranberries and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and boil gently for 10 minutes while the cranberries pop open.
- Pour into a fine-mesh sieve over a heat-proof bowl until all that remains is a paste of little twiggy bits and seeds from the cranberries and orange zest. Pour into sterile canning jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe the rims, place new lids on the jars, and screw the rings into place until finger-tip tight.
- Store in the refrigerator OR place the jars filled with hot cranberry sauce in a canner and cover with hot water. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes, whether in a pint, pint and a half, or quart sized jar. Turn off the heat, remove the lid from the canner and let the jars remain in the water for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack or towel to cool overnight, undisturbed. Wipe the jars down, label them, and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.