Thanksgiving is supposed to be all about acknowledging what we’re grateful for. We give thanks for our families, our health, our jobs, our friends, our pets, our opportunities presented and whatever else comes to mind. Oh, and of course we’re giving all praise to the mighty High for the abundance of food we are so blessed to enjoy, especially if it’s all homemade from the hands of the very dear ones in our homes. They pour their hearts and souls into the dishes that will assuredly leave a lifelong impact on how we connect to food and experiences. I’ll emphasize if that food is homemade. Because there are the egregious Thanksgiving classics that are prepackaged, in a can, in a box, from a container, and then served at the dinner table with a glorious layer of adornments that don’t do much in the way of masking its inferiority.
I’m specifically talking about cranberry sauce. The horrible can of scary looking rolled up jelly with ridges around the barrel to remind you it came out of a can. They’re a force, though. Smartly marketed at the grocery store’s end caps, these cans of fake sauce are readily accessible and cost about as much as a baguette. But why buy that wobbly cylinder of processed ingredients when you can make your own in 10 minutes? No, seriously. I’m adamant about this. It’s the one Thanksgiving treat that deserves to be enjoyed with the oohs and ahhs that simple but delicious foods should yield.
Trust me, I know about these things. See, we grew up eating that sad looking cranberry “sauce”. Sliced to perfection, it was always the last thing to go. No one touched it, really, but it was there simply because of tradition. I was mystified. I didn’t understand. How could I, in good earnest, eat a spoonful or even two, knowing there were so many ways out. I finally had a serious conversation with Mami about it. I begged her to please stop the shenanigans (oh, because there are two other classic dishes that come from a box) and allow me to take over the one little side dish no one really cared for. My argument was that if it’s going to be on the table, at least tweak it in way that offered the appearance of partially homemade. There isn’t much redemption for it. That cylinder of tangy nothingness just sat there, sadly waiting to be thrown away. And throwing away food is just as egregious as that canned stuff.
And so for the past 8 years or so one of my mainstay contributions to our dinner table on Thanksgiving is a super simple, easy-t0-make, and extremely delicious cranberry sauce. From scratch. I can’t tell you how easy it is other than for you to just make it and see for yourself. If you’ve been burdened with eating cranberry sauce from a can, you’ll find yourself having a similar conversation, almost begging for redemption for the sin of not being more conscious of what you’re eating. Once you’ve made your own cranberry sauce, you’ll start to regain some dignity in your food exploits.
This could all sound over-the-top, extra, and probably a bit dramatic. I can accept that. Maybe. Surely the canned stuff could serve its purpose for someone, something, somewhere. But when something so basic is passed over convenience and ease, the insult is just too much. There’s ease and then there’s integrity, my friends.
I switch up the recipe from year to year but mostly stick to a simple ratio of sugar and water added to fresh cranberries. You can’t go wrong with that. This year I hooked it up a bit differently for my Mom’s sake. Still simple, this version is tangy, has a tasty bite from the fresh ginger and is sweetened with a combination of blood orange juice and honey. The cinnamon offers it a lovely aroma.
It’s that easy. Think of how much prettier your table setting will be with a lovely bowl of chunky and homemade cranberry sauce, with a sprinkling of orange zest. It’s worth it. You’re worth it. The creativity and ability to whip it up in no time is truly something else to be grateful for.
I’m eternally grateful for my Mom’s unconditional love. Her love of people, including complete strangers. I’m grateful for her passion for cooking for us almost every day of our lives, still. Because she extends that same passion to anyone who enters our door. But if you ever find yourself dining in their home for Thanksgiving, I want you to walk away thankful for sparing you a bite of that canned stuff!
Enjoy my simple cranberry sauce. It’s best when made a day or two in advance. And, just for you, I’ve got another recipe for a more sexy, savory style sauce coming up. That said, stay tuned.
Blood Orange Cranberry Sauce
- 1 pound cranberries
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup juice from blood oranges
- 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- blood orange zest