How to Make Cranberry Sauce

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How to make homemade cranberry sauce. Homemade cranberry sauce tastes so much better than canned and couldn't be easier to prepare.
Canned cranberry sauce is to Thanksgiving what fruitcake is to Christmas; it's nobody's favorite, but without it, the holiday's just aren't the same. Most people don't know the joy of homemade cranberry sauce and that's a shame because it's simple to prepare and the taste couldn't be farther from the red, gelatinous mass in the can. Here's how to make your own cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

A basic cranberry sauce has four components: cranberries, sugar, liquid, and flavoring.

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The cranberries may be fresh or frozen but either way they should be rinsed thoroughly, patted dry, and any stray stems removed. The sugar may be either white granulated sugar or brown sugar. Keep in mind, however, that brown sugar will impart a richer flavor to your sauce, courtesy of the molasses it contains. Honey may also be used to balance out the tartness of the cranberries.

The liquid you use is up to you. You may use water and still create a tasty cranberry sauce, but adding citrus juice, or your favorite alcohol (think wine, rum, vodka, or port) will give you a more flavorful sauce. The flavorings also give you an opportunity to create your own sauce. Traditional flavorings include cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves but you can also incorporate items like citrus zest, dried fruits, or nuts.

Cranberry sauce should be delightfully lumpy, with bits of softened cranberries that have absorbed all of the wonderful flavors you've added. Here's a simple formula for creating a personalized homemade cranberry sauce:

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You'll need 3 parts cranberries—fresh or frozen—1 part water or a combination of water and the liquid flavoring of your choice; 1 part brown sugar, plus whatever spices or extras you'd like to add.

Combine the water and sugar in a sauce pot and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the cranberries and bring the liquid to a boil once again; the cranberries will burst, releasing their juices. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add your extras: alcohol, zest, juice, nuts, dried fruit, or spices. Cook the sauce until it thickens and the berries are broken and tender.

Let the sauce cool completely, then store it in an airtight container in your refrigerator. Don't worry if your sauce seems thin, it will thicken as it cools.

More Cranberry Sauce recipes:

Tangerine Apricot Cranberry Sauce recipe
Classic Cranberry Sauce recipe
Dried Cherry Cranberry Sauce recipe