The best ever, most alcoholic, cranberry sauce and abundant ideas for what to do with it

“Amelia Simmons …. made a sauce from cranberries to go with turkey. The sauce might have been a descendant of the one made by Tudor cooks from red barbaries to eat with game, but cranberries were indigenous, so Americans have pretty good grounds to claim the sauce as their own. ”

William Sitwell, A History of Food in 100 Recipes

Cranberry sauce has an impressive history. The first recorded recipe for it was published in 1663 (a book written by and for Pilgrims). In 1672 John Josselyn, writing in New England Rarities Discovered, noted:

“The Indians and English use them much, boyling them with sugar for sauce to eat with their meat: and it is a delicate sauce, especially with roasted mutton. Some make tarts with them as with gooseberries.”

In 1669, Captain Richard Cobb celebrated both his marriage and a successful election with turkey and wild cranberry sauce.

Cranberry sauce may have a sophisticated history, but it is seductively simple to make. And the key is to keep it that way.

You should not find it hard to eschew Delia Smith’s approach which involves: chopping and mincing – the texture is not improved; and adding ginger, cloves and cinnamon which drown out the flavour of the cranberries.

Mrs Beeton’s version takes simplicity to extremes, however, and it includes no hooch, which really is positively puritan, no good at all.

Hooch is essential. The hooch needs to be clean and fresh. For once I don’t agree with Nigella, a personal culinary hero, who uses cherry brandy – very cloying. Port (the traditional hooch) can be good, but it’s also sweet. Yes, I know the Grand Marnier is also sweet, but it brings the orange flavour (you can substitute any other orange liqueur, Cointreau or Triple Sec for example).

But there does need to be an element of orange, and to incorporate a fresh taste, you can grate in some orange zest, if you have an orange to hand.

This will keep well in the fridge for about a month, and it also freezes well. Serve at room temperature.

What to do with leftover cranberry sauce

  • make it the base of a treacle tart…or a Bakewell tart
  • use it in between layers of a chocolate cake, or if it’s not too runny (you can reduce, by heating and simmering if it is) use it, with sweetened whipped cream, to fill a sponge cake
  • mix in with yoghurt as an instant dessert (taste it first, you may need to add honey)
  • an idea from Edd Kimber: mix 125g of cranberry sauce with 150g cream cheese, 35g of golden caster sugar and an egg yolk (I would throw in the whole egg) to make a cheesecake topping for brownies – spoon on top of the brownie mix and bake in the usual way.
  • add to porridge
  • add to tomato sauce to coat meatballs
  • add to Christmassy dressings, or to a dressing for a walnut and watercress salad for example – wherever you might use raspberry vinegar
  • add to a gin and tonic (yes, really!)
  • serve it as a Christmassy snack with warm fresh rolls and an oozing, ripe brie
  • serve as a sauce with lamb
  • make cranberry chicken
  • of course, it is essential with turkey

To find various methods of sterilising jars easily, follow this link.

For a potted history of cranberries, follow this link.

best cranberry sauce recipe
Cranberry sauce – essential with a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal.
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