Get this! Last Thursday, I got on an elevator at ABC Home in NYC and started my seven-floor descent. The elevator promptly stopped at the fifth floor. In walked a decorator clutching onto a couple of rolls of wallpaper, followed by Jennifer Garner herself. Unmistakably Jennifer Garner, with her dimples, radiant smile and everything. She smiled at me and said hi, so I did the same, and then she offered to help her decorator carry the wallpaper.
I tried not to gawk at her as we rode five stories down together. She is one classy lady, I tell you. I walked off the elevator feeling like I had a few specks of magic dust on my shoulders. I don’t know how to connect Jennifer Garner with cranberry sauce (let’s say she likes cranberry sauce?), but I just had to share my elevator moment. My one minute of fame-by-assocation, if you will.
Ok, let’s talk about cranberry sauce. It’s the neglected, afterthought condiment of Thanksgiving, but no holiday table is complete without it. Cranberry sauce adds a very necessary burst of sweet-tart flavor and ruby red color to an otherwise beige meal.
The homemade version is much prettier than store-bought, not to mention more tasty. Although, I’ll admit that there is something fantastically retro about a gelatinous, shimmering cylinder of canned cranberry sauce on a plate.
Homemade cranberry sauce is exceptionally easy to make, so I’ve always wondered when Americans started buying cans of it instead of making it themselves. Did we experience a fresh cranberry shortage in the 50s? Maybe fresh cranberries hadn’t become mainstream by then? What else could explain it?
Michele emailed me and asked me if I had a cranberry sauce recipe last week, so it’s been on my radar lately. I picked up a can of cranberry sauce at the grocery store yesterday and glanced at the list—cranberries, followed by high fructose corn syrup, and that’s about it. High fructose corn syrup is heavily processed, flavorless sweet stuff that I try to avoid, and I know you all do, too.
Most homemade versions call for about a cup of white sugar, which is only marginally better than high fructose corn syrup. Today, I thought I would offer you a more healthy, naturally sweetened option. This homemade cranberry sauce will only take you 5 to 10 minutes to make.
Pro tip from a procrastinator: if you’ll be in a time crunch on Thanksgiving Day, sign up to bring the cranberry sauce. If you’re looking for more last-minute inspiration, don’t forget that I have a roundup of sixteen healthy Thanksgiving side dishes over here!
- One 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries
- ½ cup honey or maple syrup
- ½ cup water
- Zest of 1 medium orange, preferably organic (about 1 teaspoon)
- Optional add-ins: ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and/or ¼ cup fresh orange juice
- First, rinse the cranberries well and drain off excess water. Pick through the cranberries and discard any squishy ones.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the cranberries, honey and water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have popped and the mixture has thickened to your liking, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Remove the pot from heat and stir in the orange zest. If you'd like to add cinnamon or orange juice, add it now. Taste and, if the mixture is too tart (keeping in mind that cranberry sauce is supposed to be a little tart!), add more orange juice, honey or maple syrup to taste.
Make it vegan: Use maple syrup instead of honey.
If you love this recipe: Check out my other cranberry recipes!