Best Cranberry Sauce From Scratch + Muffins

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I hate Jello. I don’t use that word often, especially when talking about food, but in this case it really applies. I love cranberries. Dried, fresh, in scones, drinks, whatever. So it’s really unfortunate that I hate cranberry sauce. Or at least I thought I did until a few days ago.

For Thanksgiving every year my family usually serves the canned variety of cranbery sauce. In my opinion, it’s terrible. And the worst part about it? It reminds me of Jello. So this year I decided to take matters into my own hands and make cranberry sauce from scratch- word on the street was that it was pretty easy. I bought tons of fresh cranberries when I was at the farmer’s market in madison last weekend (good decision) and was prepared to make enough cranberry sauce for 25 people. Yep, you read that right. I wanted to keep it simple, but also introduce a few bold flavors that would make my sauce stand out from the canned (ew) variety.

Ginger Foodie Cranberry Sauce
(Serving size approx. 25 people)
4 lbs. fresh cranberries, washed and picked over to remove any bad or mushy ones
4 cups water
4 cups granulated sugar
Orange zest of 3/4 of a large orange
Nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon to taste (don’t add much because these are very strong flavors)
1. Bring the water and sugar to a boil, adding in the cranberries
2. After about 15 minutes,or after most cranberries have popped, reduce heat
3. Add in your extra spices. This is where that unique flavor comes from. Stir and let simmer for a bit longer.
4. Remove from heat, let thoroughly cool and store in an airtight container in your refridgerator until ready to serve.

Note: No one really explained this to me, but the sauce will thicken upon refrigeration, not necessarily upon standing. I was worried I had used too much water. After a few hours in the fridge, the sauce was good to go.

It tasted so good hot that I was worried I wouldn’t like it cold. But I wanted to say to my cranberry sauce (in the words of Julia Roberts circa “My Best Friend’s Wedding”) “you’re never gonna be Jell-o.” So true.

So after I made enough cranberry sauce to feed a small village of people that live just outside the lake in the Ocean Spray commercial, I realized I still had about a pound left (that’s 12 oz. for all you slow pokes). What to do? I decided without a blink that I would make a cranberry loaf and muffins – because there really is no better use for leftover fruit. This recipe was bangin’ bartha as my friend the Hungry Hipster would say.

Cranberry Bread and Muffins
Recipe adapted from Three Many Cooks

2 cups flour (1 whole wheat and one white = great combo)
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted
About 7 ounces of fresh cranberries
Raw turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top

The recipe is simple. Mix together dry ingredients in one bowl and wet in another. Mix wet into dry ingredients and then fold in cranberries. I cut the larger cranberries in half because they are fairly tart. Grease your pan and bake at 350 degrees F. How long do you bake them, you want to know? You ask such good questions. Time will vary depending on pan size. I made mini muffins for our Thanksgiving Bread basket, regular muffins and a loaf.

Needless to say I was in the kitchen for the entire evening stuffing my face with cranberry-related products. Look at those adorable minis running away from the cranberry sauce. I brought the loaf into my office for a birthday/Thanksgiving celebration and they were a huge hit. I didn’t get much feedback because one person admitted to eating 6 slices…but she said it was pretty good I guess. I’ll have to get back to you on the final verdict for the cranberry sauce this year. Will my family branch out or stick with the cranberry Jello sauce? I say it’s a success already becuase I liked the sauce – as did my taste testers (aka my parents).

Happy Thanksgiving, and stay tuned for a Thanksgiving recap coming soon. I’ve got a squash and ricotta tart, my famous spinach artichoke dip plus that apple tart on the way. Happy eating!

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