Easy to prepare, gently-spiced, and bursting with fruit flavor, this Apple Orange Cranberry Sauce is a lovely addition to any Thanksgiving feast.
When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, there are few topics that can get the feathers flying more than cranberry sauce. Growing up and spending many holidays at relatives’ homes who served both canned (jellied) and homemade sauce, I only realized a few years ago how impassioned the debate can be over which variety reigns supreme. I’ve read stories of dinner boycotts, disappointed faces, and all-around hurt feelings when the wrong variety has hit the table. (It all seems so un-Thanksgiving-like, doesn’t it?)
I’m a homemade, whole berry kind of girl, but understand that it’s all a matter of personal preference and traditions. I’ll be totally honest: the way jellied sauce jiggles out of the can in one piece and retains the imprint of the can rings upon plating, has always freaked me out a little. Nonetheless, it’s a symbol of nostalgia for many, invoking warm memories of holidays past. If there’s one dinner a year that’s meant to be pure comfort, it’s Thanksgiving. Give the people what they want, I say. By the same token, just as families sitting around our holiday tables grow and evolve, there’s always room for a new side dish to join the celebration. When it comes to homemade, this Apple Orange Cranberry Sauce is my personal favorite.
Part of the beauty of making cranberry sauce at home is how ridiculously easy it is. You just put everything in a pot and give it a few stirs as it simmers. Within 10-15 minutes, the berries will have burst and cooked down into a thick, gorgeously-colored sauce. Pop it into the refrigerator for a few hours, and it’s ready to serve. (Cranberry sauce can even be made a few days in advance, making it very convenient for busy holiday schedules.)
I adapted this sauce a few years ago from a recipe I saw in Bon Appétit magazine. I loved that the original recipe relied on three cranberry sources for its base flavor and texture: cranberry juice concentrate, fresh cranberries, and dried. I’ve always enjoyed citrus notes in my cranberry sauce, so the addition of orange marmalade was really appealing as well. For a little extra texture and flavor, I like to add diced apple, as well as ground cinnamon and cloves. Depending on my guests, I’ll often take a cue from my mother’s recipe and finish it with a splash or two of orange liqueur. Totally optional, but a nice way to differentiate it from the other sauces on the table (and entice members of both the homemade and canned camps to give it a try).
This sauce is delicious on “day-after Thanksgiving” turkey sandwiches. I also like to mix a few dollops of it into softened butter to make a lovely cranberry spread (great slathered onto warm sweet potato biscuits—worth the price of admission alone), or as a garnish for butternut squash soup. No matter which variety complements your holiday dinner, let’s keep the true spirit of this special day in our hearts. This year, as Striped Spatula prepares to celebrate its first anniversary, I am especially thankful for all of you who have been following my blog and inspiring me to continue on this very fun journey.
(One of my favorite dressing/stuffing recipes—another debate for the ages—to follow later this week.)
Apple Orange Cranberry Sauce
Easy to prepare, gently-spiced, and bursting with fruit flavor, this cranberry sauce is a lovely addition to any Thanksgiving feast. For an adult version of a classic, try spiking the sauce with a few tablespoons of orange liqueur. Apple Orange Cranberry Sauce can be made 3 days in advance of serving. Stored prepared sauce tightly-covered in the refrigerator.
Recipe adapted from "Triple-Cranberry Sauce," Bon Appétit, November 1993
- 1 cup cranberry juice cocktail concentrate, defrosted
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 12 ounce package fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries (2 ounces)
- 1 large apple (such as Fuji), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 3 tablespoons sweet orange marmalade
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1-2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or Cointreau (optional), to taste *
In a heavy saucepan, combine cranberry juice concentrate and granulated sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add fresh and dried cranberries and diced apple, stirring to combine. Return to a boil and reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until apples are tender, sauce thickens, and cranberries "pop." Remove from heat.
Stir in orange marmalade, juice, zest, cinnamon, cloves, and orange liqueur (if using). Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled to let the flavors meld. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
*Since the liqueur is added after the sauce is simmered, it will not evaporate, making it unsuitable for children or anyone unable to consume alcohol.
An additional note, 11/24/14: As per the comments below, the cranberry juice cocktail concentrate lends an extra layer of cranberry flavor (and a hint of tartness) to the sauce. If you aren't able to get the frozen concentrate, or would prefer not to use it, you can substitute 1 cup of water and 3/4 to 1 cup (total) granulated sugar (depending on how sweet you like your cranberry sauce).