Unless you really crave those accordion-like ridges or consider Thanksgiving a failure without hearing that classic shplopping noise, you have no excuse for resorting to canned cranberry sauce.

Homemade cranberry sauce is wildly better than anything you can buy and it takes little time or effort to make. Plus, it’s easy to take a basic cranberry sauce and doctor it up in so many delicious ways.

To help you along on your journey from can to greatness, we offer a base recipe for a delicious brown sugar and orange cranberry sauce, plus five ways of taking the flavor in crazy delicious directions. Don’t want to use our base recipe? Don’t. Use what’s written on the bag of fresh cranberries, then use our flavorings.

Cranberry Sauce with Variations

Start to finish: 15 minutes

  • 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • Pinch of salt

In a medium saucepan over medium-high, combine the cranberries, brown sugar, orange juice and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the cranberries have popped and softened, 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and select one of the flavor combinations below:

Makes 8 servings.

Variations:

CHIPOTLE: Add 1 minced chipotle pepper and 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles in adobo). Allow to cool, then stir in 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro.

TRUFFLED: Allow to fully cool, then stir in 1/2 teaspoon truffle oil and 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives.

SWEET-AND-SMOKY: Stir in 1/2 cup crumbled well-cooked bacon, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika and an extra 1/2 cup brown sugar.

LEMON-TARRAGON: Stir in 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon and the zest and juice of 1 lemon.

GINGER-MISO: Stir in 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger and 2 tablespoons sweet white miso.

Getting more creative — and more flavorful — isn’t hard. These three quick recipes are jammed with flavor. The first, a cooked chutney-style sauce that sports warm, spicy flavors, is the easiest. The second offers a sweeter take; it’s studded with dried fruit.

Or for something a little different, try the third, a spicy uncooked cranberry salsa. The heat of the jalapeno is just enough to complement the other flavors of the meal without competing.

Cranberry Chutney

Start to finish: 10 minutes, plus cooling

  • 12-ounce jar mango chutney
  • 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch salt

In a medium saucepan over medium-high, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Remove from the heat and let stand or refrigerate until cooled and thickened.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Dried Fruit Cranberry Compote

Start to finish: 15 minutes, plus cooling

  • 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup diced dried apricots
  • 3/4 cup diced dates
  • 1/4 cup diced candied ginger

In a medium saucepan over medium-high, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and let stand or refrigerate until cooled and thickened.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Spicy Cranberry Salsa

Start to finish: 10 minutes

  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 fresh jalapeño, seeds and veins removed
  • 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 small apples, peeled and cored, cut into small chunks
  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup or honey
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

In a food processor, combine the red onion, garlic and jalapeno. Process until finely minced. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until finely and evenly chopped.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Alison Ladman is a chef, food writer and recipe developer. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/CrustAndCrumbCo

Sign up for TheIndependent.com Email Alerts

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.
Load comments