Spruce up your holiday menus by taking the classic dishes you’ve come to love and expect at the holiday table and jazzing them up with a few simple tweaks. One classic dish that’s a breeze to modify? Cranberry sauce. Here’s how to add (almost) any fruit to your favorite cranberry sauce recipe.
Cranberry sauce 101
Cranberry sauce is really just a basic compote, or cooked fruit sauce, typically reserved for Thanksgiving and holiday menus. At the core, it’s made from merely cooking down fresh cranberries with sweetener, citrus, and often a splash of liqueur or juice. As the cranberries cook, they release natural pectin which thickens the sauce, giving it its characteristic “gel.”
As for the canned version that’s completely homogenized and as gelled as a full-on gelatin mold, that stuff is usually loaded with sugar, and often high fructose corn syrup at that. And frankly, it just isn’t as enjoyable as from-scratch cranberry sauce that’s loaded with color, texture, and holiday spunk. Make it yourself and you’ll taste the incredible difference.
The following formula can be used with many fruits for making a thick, slightly gelled, not-too-sweet cranberry-style sauce:
Combine ¾ pound fresh fruits, ¾ cup raw sugar, ½ cup orange juice, 1 tablespoon fresh orange zest, and either 1 cinnamon stick or ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until fruits pop, release their liquids, and the whole thing starts to thicken, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool; mixture will thicken as it cools.
So what fruits should you use in that formula? Cranberries aren’t the only fruits to release pectin, and any online search for “compote recipe” will show you just how many types of fruits out there can be cooked down into a fruit sauce. We’re talking holiday cooking in this article, so the following fruits are winter-seasonal and perfectly suitable to use in your cranberry sauce experiments:
If you’re using small fruits like raisins, cherries, cranberries or grapes, you may leave them whole as you cook the compote, but if you’re using anything larger than that, cut the fruits down to about ½-inch pieces before cooking.
Feel free to use any of the above fruits in combination with fresh cranberries for a new twist with a familiar taste on the classic recipe. Otherwise, mix and match the fruits to taste!
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