My mother makes the best cranberry sauce in the world, but that’s not the recipe I’m sharing today.* Sorry to disappoint.
*Just kidding! I wrote her original recipe in the notes at the end. It’s a Thanksgiving two-fer 🙂 I have a good reason for holding out on you. My mom’s cranberry sauce is made with a large amount of brandy, which gets cooked off over the course of an hour in the oven. As I have mentioned previously though, I cannot safely consume alcohol, and therefore do not keep it around, even for cooking.
Since I quit drinking five and a half years ago, cranberry sauce is one of the only dishes that I have really missed. I’ve found work-arounds or substitutes for all sorts of other recipes, but I just couldn’t find one that hit all the same buttons as my mom’s.In case you’re wondering, those buttons include:
- It’s gotta be whole berry. No weird can-shaped cranberry jello here.
- It can’t have more than three ingredients. I’ve had cranberry sauces with nuts and spices and other fruits and all sorts of other silliness, and all of it was completely unnecessary.
- It shouldn’t have any citrus. Orange and cranberry are complementary flavors, but I can’t stand them together in cranberry sauce. This is more of a personal preference than anything, but I mean, this is my personal food blog.
- It can’t be too sweet. I hate when cranberries are so over-sweetened that their natural tartness is completely masked.
- It has to be easy. Like ridiculously easy. So low-maintenance, it’s silly. And if it can be made more than a day ahead, that’s ideal.
- If nothing else, it must be so delicious that I want to eat it every time I spot the jar in the fridge.
It’s taken a few years and many sauces with unrecognizable berries, too much sugar, flavors I didn’t care for, and a lot of feeling sorry for myself, but I’ve finally made a cranberry sauce that hits all those buttons. And the missing ingredient was looking at me the whole time in the form of a seasonal fridge staple: apple cider. It has flavor, but not enough to overwhelm the cranberries, and it’s sweet without being saccharine. Perfection.This sauce comes together over the course of an hour in the oven. It gets stirred twice, but needs no help otherwise.The result is soft, bursting berries that slump into a sweet, sticky sauce. It’s just divine. As is the fact that it can be made today and nuked in the microwave just before you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, it’s probably even better that way. Love that.
Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers.
Apple Cider Cranberry Sauce*
makes about 3 cups
2 12-ounce bags whole cranberries
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine all ingredients in a 9×13-inch casserole dish and stir together. Bake 60 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes.
Remove sauce from oven. Cool for a few minutes before transferring to a serving dish. Serve.
Cranberry sauce may be made up to two days in advance; it reheats well in the microwave.
If you want to try my mom’s cranberry sauce, swap the cider for brandy and double the sugar. Everything else is the same.