Wednesday, November 27, 2013

DIY Cranberry Sauce Gone Horribly Wrong (And How to Do It Right...and Super Easy)

I was in the grocery store yesterday picking up a few last-minute items for Thanksgiving and I happened across this product, parked in the produce aisle right next to the bagged cranberries.

"Make-it-Yourself Cranberry Sauce Kit...Includes Flavor Packet - $3.99"

I did a double-take and PLEASE understand that this is not one of those cases where I'm being a food snob.  I'm also not knocking those who reach for the can for nostalgia reasons or pure convenience.  However, making cranberry sauce is a dump-and-stir operation, folks.  It doesn't require a kit any more than mud pies do.  It has 3 ingredients (sugar, water, cranberries), takes about 20 minutes of your time start-to-finish, and is arguably easier than making tollhouse cookies from a tube of dough.

Curious, I turned the package over to see what their secret flavor packet had in it. Sugar, water, lemon, "natural and artificial flavoring," and a healthy dose of preservatives.  $3.99

Fresh cranberries: $2.50.  Sugar: Free in my cupboard.  Water: Free.

You be the judge.

Basic Whole-Berry Cranberry Sauce
1 12-oz package fresh or frozen whole cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

1) Place water and sugar in a large heavy pot and bring to a boil.
2) Add cranberries and return to a boil.
3) Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and burning.
4) Remove from heat, pour into a glass container, cover, and cool.  Chill before serving.

Makes about 24oz

Jellied Cranberry Sauce
(This would be the slice-able stuff like in the can)

1) Prepare Whole-Berry Cranberry Sauce as directed above.
2) Before sauce cools, pass through a food mill, ricer, or press through a fine-mesh strainer.  This will remove the seeds and skins.
3) Scrape into a jelly mold, a clean aluminum can, or a straight-sided glass jar or bowl.  Cover and refrigerate several hours until completely set and chilled.

Shelf-Stable Cranberry Sauce
(This assumes you know basic canning procedures.  If you don't, read about them here.)

1) Prepare either whole-berry or jellied sauce using one of the recipes above.
2) Prepare a boiling water bath (BWB) canner.
3) Fill jars with 1/4 inch headspace.
4) Process jars 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.

For something a little different, try my family's recipe for Cranberry Relish!

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