Cranberry Sauce is a sweet condiment based on cranberries. It’s used along with savoury meals.
There are two types of “Cranberry Sauce”, even though we often refer to both as just Cranberry Sauce: one is — well, sauce, and the second is a jelly, which is just a firmer version of the same sauce.
Very good cranberry sauces can be purchased in tins. Cranberry sauce is also very, very easy to make. Make jelled ones the day before, so they have time to set and chill in the fridge. If you have kids old enough to respect hot things on a stove, they can even help you; it is a good kid’s activity, especially the part where you have to squish the berries that haven’t popped yet. If you make your own, have a look around in books or on the Internet for recipes: there are a zillion different recipes. Some nice ones are made with a dash of orange-tasting liqueur in them, such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier, or with a healthy splodge of port (which is a nod to an older festive sauce called Cumberland Sauce.)
You’ll encounter one or two sauce recipes that want you to chop the cranberries first, but this is pointless, as they are all going to be boiled down into a squidgy sauce anyway.
When you are making the sauce, there are a few general principles to bear in mind.
The first is that you are basically making a jam, and as for jam, you have to boil the fruit to release the pectin in the fruit, which is what’s needed (along with sugar) for the “gel” to happen. For cranberries, this is about 10 minutes at a good healthy boil. If you want to “upgrade” your sauce from a “pouring sauce” into a firmer, “spooning jelly”, you need to cook it for 5 minutes longer.
Secondly, the amount of sugar your recipe calls for is there for a reason. The pectin interacts with it to make the gel. If you cut back on the sugar, you will get a runnier sauce. Don’t despair, though, if you want to make a lower-calorie sauce. There are zillions of recipes for that, too, which have the other ingredients adjusted to make up for the lower sugar.
If your sauce won’t gel, you can try adding 1 pkg (2 1/2 teaspoons) of unflavoured gelatin to the sauce, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
If you are using frozen cranberries, don’t bother thawing them before using.
3 cups of cranberries = 12 oz / 350 g of cranberries = about 2 pints / 1 litre of sauce
Opened or freshly made, store cranberry sauce in a sealed container in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. You can preserve it by canning; or you can freeze it for up to a year. When you thaw it, it will be a bit runny, so either drain off some of the liquid, or use in baking.
Cranberry sauce is one of the very few ways left in which, in cooking in the English-speaking world, a sweet item is used as part of a savoury course of a meal.