It doesn't look like it came out of a can and it certainly doesn't taste as it came out of a can. With just the right amount of sweet and tart, Red Wine Cranberry Sauce will definitely be popular at your Thanksgiving dinner!
So when did the can of jellied cranberries become a thing? The jiggling mass with the indented rings was a staple at the Thanksgiving table when I was a kid. I remember having cranberry sauce that had no berries - it was basically a smooth tube of cranberry flavored jelly.
But we can do better.
I know that in the stress of trying to coordinate multiple sides and desserts, in addition to a turkey, we look for shortcuts. Is there an easier and faster method to get something on the table?
It is tempting to reach for a can of cranberries. They aren't the showstopper that a glistening, perfectly browned turkey is when brought to the table. Mashed potatoes will always win a popularity contest. Marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes and green bean casserole adorned with french fried onions are staples of Thanksgiving dinner. Let's give cranberry sauce it's due.
Cranberries have historical gravitas as they were a food source at the time of the original Thanksgiving dinner. They are indigenous to North America. Time for a reincarnation of cranberry sauce!
When preparing sides for Thanksgiving dinner, I like to include ingredients that mimic the original feast. I look for seasonal ingredients that bring a local touch to recipes. Pears add natural sweetness to the cranberries and a complementary texture. I use red d'anjou pears because the diced fruit tends to hold its shape while being cooked. But use what pears you can find at the grocery store.
Tart to the point of being inedible, cranberries always benefit from the addition of sweetness. However, how sweet? This recipe has a little bit of tart with a little bit of sweet. I like to hold back on some sugar. It is up to you how much sugar you want in your cranberries.
The beauty of this homemade Red Wine Cranberry Sauce is that it is a perfect make-ahead recipe. It benefits from being made a day or two earlier. The flavors marry as the cranberry sauce thickens and chills over a day or two.
This is a quick and easy recipe to make. Combine the cranberries with peeled and diced pears. Add the remaining ingredients - sugar, red wine, orange juice and zest, vanilla bean, and cinnamon stick. The sugar will act as a thickener. As the cranberries cook, the sauce becomes more viscous and syrupy. Give everything a stir to combine.
As the sauce is heated, the cranberries will pop. This happens relatively quickly, after about 5 minutes of cooking. It takes about 15 more minutes for the juices to thicken. If you are using a thermometer, at 210 degrees take the pan off the heat. But there are visual clues. As the sauce boils, the bubbles will start to get thicker. The majority of the cranberries will have popped and the consistency of the sauce will have changed. It should be syrupy. Remember that the sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. This has taken a total of 25 minutes.
Making the case for homemade cranberry sauce
I know that opening a can is easier and quicker, but with just a small investment in time, you will have cranberries that are nuanced in flavor. There is a tempered sweetness created with the addition of pears and orange juice. Red wine brings a fruity earthiness.
Celebrate this indigenous North American fruit by making Red Wine Cranberry Sauce. You won't miss the can.
Other Thanksgiving recipes - https://tenpoundcakecompany.com/fall-harvest-salad
Red Wine Cranberry Sauce
- candy thermometer
- 24 ounces fresh cranberries 680 grams
- 2 d'anjou pears
- ½ cup orange juice 125 ml
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 1¼ cup granulated sugar 9 ounces/254 grams
- 1 cup red wine 8 ounces/250 ml
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Sort the cranberries, removing any that are soft and mushy. Rinse the berries and put them in a saucepan.
- Peel, core, and dice the two d'anjou pears. Add to the saucepan.
- Cut the vanilla bean open and scrape the seeds. Add both the pod and the seeds to the pan.
- Add the sugar, orange zest, juice, sugar, red wine, and cinnamon stick to the saucepan.
- Stir everything together. Start to cook over medium-high heat. Have the thermometer clipped to the side of the pan. You can also use an instant-read thermometer if you prefer.
- After 5 minutes, the cranberries will start to pop. The liquid will start to boil.
- Continue to boil until the cranberries have reached 210 °. The cranberries will have split and the liquid will be thick and syrupy. You can see the difference in the liquid as it boils. The bubbles will become more viscous. Take the pan off the heat.
- As the cranberry sauce cools off, it will continue to thicken. You can make the sauce a few days early.