It’s that time of year again. You know, the only time of year when we usually have cranberry sauce. Yes, Thanksgiving, is the official start of the holiday season, and cranberry sauce is one of the traditional foods.
Most of us will just head to the grocery store and pick a can of sauce. And it has to be the “jellied” sauce. And we generally serve it chilled but straight out of the can, still shaped like the can.
“But wait!” I say, “we can do better!” With truly minimal effort, anyone can make a spicy cranberry sauce quickly at home. And you can have fresh cranberry sauce on your holiday table.
When I first made this spicy cranberry sauce with Fresno peppers about 10 years ago, I was so surprised at how easy and good it was that I vowed to lose the canned stuff completely. Well, my husband wasn’t quite ready (and still isn’t) to give up the can, but this new sauce found its way onto the table and has been there ever since.
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So, How Do You Make Spicy Cranberry Sauce?
This is one of the easiest cranberry recipes ever. It has just six ingredients (seven if you count the lime juice separate from the lime zest). Cranberries (fresh or frozen), Fresno chiles (these are just red jalapeno peppers), honey or agave syrup, ginger, lime, and salt.
Once you have all your ingredients measured and ready, combine the cranberries with the remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
For zesting my citrus and grating ginger, using a Microplane works best for me.
Don’t use high heat. This can scorch the sugars (and your pan). Gently bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
As the mixture slowly warms up, the berries will begin to pop. As they open, the berries release their pectin to thicken the sauce. Pectin is a complex starch (fiber) found in most fruits and berries. Pectin is what makes jams and jellies hold together.
There are many substitutions you can make to suit your family’s taste.
- Instead of lime zest, you can use orange zest or lemon zest (also, use what you have on hand)
- Add a cinnamon stick or some star anise or other warm spices to pump up the holiday flavors
- Want to be a bit more exotic? Cardamom pods add a very unique taste.
This spicy cranberry sauce is a great addition to your Thanksgiving table.
- 1lb. fresh (or frozen) cranberries
- 1 Fresno pepper (red jalapeños) diced small
- ⅔ cup honey or Agave syrup
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons lime zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- De-vein, remove the seeds and chop the Fresno pepper
- Using a Microplane or zester, zest the skin of the lime until you have 2 teaspoons (If your limes are small, you may need more than one).
- Cut and juice the lime.
- If using fresh ginger, grate the ginger with the Microplane
- Place all ingredients, cranberries, honey, salt, ginger, lime zest, and lime juice into a saucepan
- Bring ingredients to a low boil over medium heat. Then reduce heat to a simmer.
- Listen for the cranberries to "pop" open.
- Stir occasionally, to incorporate.
- The sauce is done when it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and not drip off.
You can make this recipe with fresh or frozen cranberries.
Don't use high heat as this may burn the sugar.
The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools, so don't worry if it appears a bit loose when hot.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 45Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 40mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 0gSugar: 12gProtein: 0g
Nutritional Information is an estimate and will vary depending on the specific ingredients used
How To Know When The Sauce Is Done
The honey, berries, and lime juice will form a syrup as the pot simmers. Don’t wait until the sauce is the consistency you think is suitable for eating. Take the spicy cranberry sauce off the heat when it coats the back of a spoon and drips off very slowly. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
A Few Tips For Making The Best Cranberry Sauce
The Best Ways To Thicken Home Cranberry Sauce
Some recipes will call for a cup of water or fresh orange juice to be added for cooking. I find there is plenty of liquid from the berries themselves. But if you want the cranberry sauce thicker, you can do a couple of things.
- Cook the sauce a bit longer. The longer you cook, the more liquid evaporates.
- Make a slurry of cornstarch (1 tablespoon of cornstarch to a small amount of water). Slowly whisk the slurry into your sauce until it reaches your desired consistency.
You Want To Make Sure Your Cranberry Sauce Is Sweet
To reduce the tartness of cranberries, all recipes call for a sweetener. Some will use white or brown sugar to sweeten the sauce. This recipe uses honey. If you prefer, agave or maple syrup can be used.
When using sugar, you must make sure the sugar is well dissolved, or you may end up with a gritty sauce. If you choose to use sugar, consider making a simple syrup first. Using honey or syrup eliminates the chance that your cranberry sauce will be gritty.
Are The Fresh Cranberries – Fresh?
Fresh berries are usually bright red and firm, with few to no blemishes. Here’s how to tell when cranberries start to go bad.
- The berries will feel soft and squishy when gently pinched between two fingers. They may be shriveled and wrinkled or otherwise look dry.
- You will see more bruises, and there may be mold growing
- The cranberries smell “off.” The smell may be sour or just funny.
If your cranberries have these features, it’s best to toss them and get new ones.
What Is The Best Way To Store Fresh Cranberries
That cute little bag of fresh cranberries you just bought should last around three weeks in your refrigerator. If you purchased your berries at the Farmer’s Market, you will want to transfer them to an airtight container before putting them in the crisper.
You may be wondering if you can freeze raw cranberries. The answer to that question is a resounding yes! You can pop the bag of berries straight into the freezer. Frozen cranberries can be kept for up to a year. When ready to cook or eat the berries, they usually thaw out on the counter in under 15 minutes.
Just remember that cranberries like to be kept cold. Don’t leave your fresh cranberries at room temperature overnight. You may wake up the next morning to find mold has already started.
How Long Will This Homemade Spicy Cranberry Sauce Last
This is a great thing. This spicy Cranberry Sauce recipe will last 10 – 14 days in the refrigerator! That means you can make this a week before Thanksgiving Dinner and have one less cooking challenge on the big day.
Also, you can freeze homemade cranberry sauce! Place the sauce in an airtight container, pop it in the freezer, and it will last for a couple of months. My recipe makes a little over 2 cups of sauce, but you can easily double it.
I like to use 8 oz mason jars to store my sauce. When freezing my spicy cranberry sauce, I place a piece of parchment paper on top of the sauce to prevent freezer burn. Remember to leave space in the jar for expansion.
Once frozen, you can serve cranberry sauce for every holiday meal, not just with the Thanksgiving Turkey. Take the sauce out of the freezer and place it in the refrigerator a day before you want to eat it.