For this Thanksgiving I’m taking you from cranberry sauce out of a can to cranberry sauce 2.0! I’m also taking you behind the scenes of my first Thanksgiving in Ohio. I’m sure you are all in the thick of cooking, probably have your cranberry sauce made, and won’t even read this until tomorrow. Nevertheless, I feel I need to put this out there into cyberspace because I am thankful today, and did I forget to mention – I love cranberry sauce! I love the color. I love how tart and sweet it is all at the same time. I love how it’s a great partner to turkey, but if it spills into the stuffing or sweet potatoes – even better! I love the fact you only need only 3 ingredients to make it. That’s without my splash of course, but we’ll get to that.
On the first Thanksgiving we spent in Ohio back in 2003, we decided against travelling anywhere as we had just moved a couple of months before and the thought of a long drive, or rushing to the airport, was too much to think about. What we did instead was plan a fun weekend at home full with games, good food, and going to the movies. I thought it would be a great idea if we all cooked together for the holiday. Before Food Network told us it was cool for kids to be in the kitchen, mine already had aprons with their names embroidered on them! Here is what I remember… I was in charge of the turkey, my older son was in charge of the desserts, his younger brother helped with the cranberry sauce, and my husband just made a mess, so he was given the job of setting the table! And we laughed a lot.
What I learned from this experience was several things: first, since it was my then, 5 year old making the cranberry sauce, I learned how high raw cranberries can bounce and quickly scatter all over the kitchen! I also learned the importance of keeping a lid on the pot when cooking (they sometimes pop out!). I learned my older son was great at following directions and liked pumpkin pie. I learned that my husband while a menace in the kitchen was great at selecting wine, picking out good music, and setting the table which is where his expertise lies. I learned I didn’t play well with others in the kitchen but still loved every minute of it! Finally I learned how even though most people think of Thanksgiving as a time of being with a big extended family and lots of friends (and I was sad we weren’t), for us it was just as great if not better being just us four.
Today as I sit and write this post, I think of all I am grateful for. One of the first things that comes to mind is cranberry sauce! It reminds me of that wonderful Thanksgiving day in 2003 which taught me so much about my family. So here goes, my cranberry sauce recipe with what I think you’ll agree – a Splash of Sherri!
Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving wherever and with whoever you are with – be Grateful.
2 – 12 ounce bags of fresh cranberries washed
1 cup sugar (you can add more, it depends how sweet you like it)
2 cups water
3/4 cup dried cranberries (my secret ingredient)
¾ cup canned mandarin oranges in juice drained
½ to ¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans(depending on how nutty you would like it)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (my other secret ingredient!)
Recipe makes about 5 cups and feeds a lot of people! Feel free to cut it in half.
Cook the cranberries, sugar, and water in a covered saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes, add the dried cranberries and continue to cook another 5 minutes, or until the skins pop open, stirring occasionally. When checking the sauce to stir, be mindful to lift the lid away from you, as some cranberries might pop up as I found out the hard way! Remove from heat and allow it to cool a little before adding in the vanilla. If you add it when it’s too hot, it will evaporate quickly. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate. Before serving, add the walnuts and oranges. You can alter the amount to your liking.
A couple of tips before I leave you… Cranberry sauce thickens as it cools they are full of natural pectin. If it is thicker than you like, add a little water or juice to it. This year, I added pineapple juice because it’s what I had on hand, orange juice would work too, as would water. Add one tablespoon at a time, till the desired thickness. Second, you can always make it sweeter, so be conservative to start. Then if it’s not as sweet as you would like it, add a little sugar. One reason my recipe has 1/2 the sugar if not more than most, is the dried cranberries add a lot of sweetness. Oh, and you don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to make this. It’s so easy, why not make it next week?