What is it about this Superfood that makes us love it so much on our Thanksgiving table? And why do we only eat it at Thanksgiving? Rich in antioxidants and touted as a preventative treatment for Urinary Tract Infections the cranberry plant is a low lying Vine that reaches peak harvest from mid September through mid November. Despite being one of the few plants that is native to the United States of America, it was not until the 18th Century that it became a holiday staple in most households across the USA.
Despite the fact that there were plants aplenty, full of the sour, almost bitter fruit, hand picking the vibrant red berries was very labor intensive and as sugar cane was not readily available till the mid 18th Century, the fruit was not truly palatable. By 1795 sugar refining was a big Industry in Louisiana and in 1796 we have the first written record of a cranberry sauce recipe in a cookbook called "American Cookery" by Amelia Simmons.
By the 1800's "wet harvesting" of the cranberries evolved, where Cranberry Bogs were flooded, making the berries float and allowing the farmers to wade in and easily collect them by bucketfuls. As Louisiana expanded it's hold on sugarcane production, supplying a quarter of the world supply by the 1840's, the abundance of sugar and cranberries led to a whole new industry! In the early 1900s Marcus L. Urann, a lawyer, purchased a Cranberry bog and began production of canned jelly under the brand name "Ocean Spray." Today, come November, we start seeing these cans lined up by the hundreds on supermarket shelves, the first sign that Thanksgiving is near.
In all honesty, the first time I tried a slice of the canned variety I wasn't a huge fan and for years I'd pass on the cranberry jelly. It wasn't until my friend Catherine introduced me to the homemade variety that I was hooked! It was delicious and so easy to make! I've been smitten ever since and as soon as I see the first fresh cranberries in my local store I prepare a big batch of the following sauce and freeze it for future use! There's so much to cook for Thanksgiving that I start prepping way ahead of time, leaving only a few select items for the week of and/or the day of the great big feast!
This also works well if you're planning on traveling; this year I'm prepping and freezing for my family's trip to the Great Smokey Mountains! Everything will be prepped, labeled and frozen. It all goes in the ice chest on the drive over and in the fridge when we get there. An hour or two in the oven on the day of Thanksgiving and we're ready to eat!
The basic cranberry recipe is as easy as tossing some cranberries, water and sugar in a pot and cooking it till you have your sauce. Of course, I love experimenting with new ingredients and my recipe has evolved over the years to this current version I'm presenting to you today. On Thanksgiving we eat this with Turkey and for the remainder of winter we eat it with grilled cheese sandwiches, as a topping on baked brie and at times with homemade roasted chicken. Try my recipe and drop a comment below if you like it!
4 Cups Cranberries
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Apple Cider
1 Cups Pomegranate Seeds
½ Cinnamon Stick
½ Nutmeg Seed
1 Cutie Juiced
½ Teaspoon Cutie Zest
2.5 Cups Sugar
¼ Teaspoon Salt
MIX ALL THE CRANBERRIES, APPLE CIDER, WATER, SUGAR AND WHOLE SPICES IN A POT AND COOK TILL YOU REACH A BOIL.
ONCE YOU SEE FOAM ON THE SURFACE REDUCE HEAT TO A SIMMER.
SIMMER TILL THE MIXTURE THICKENS AND REDUCES BY ⅓-1/2.
ADD THE POMEGRANATE SEEDS.
SQUEEZE THE JUICE OF THE CUTIE INTO THE MIXTURE.
ADD THE CUTIE ZEST.
COOK TILL THE MIXTURE STARTS TURNING GLOSSY.
ONCE THE MIXTURE COATS YOUR SPOON YOUR CRANBERRY SAUCE IS READY.
THE SAUCE IS READY ONCE THERE IS NO MORE FOAM AND YOU CAN SEE A GLOSSY FINISH.
This will become jelly like once it cools. If you prefer a thinner consistency, stop cooking it as soon as it starts to thicken. Store in your fridge for 10-14 days in sealed jars or in your freezer in an airtight container for up to 2 months.