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Spiced Cranberry Sauce: It’s Not Just Turkey That Makes a Great Thanksgiving Dinner. It’s the Sauce

Spiced Cranberry Sauce: It’s Not Just Turkey That Makes a Great Thanksgiving Dinner. It’s the Sauce

  • Try my recipe which includes an age-old technique from India which uses fire-roasted cayenne chilies to introduce a smokey heat into the mix.

Roasted turkey served with delicious sides, gravy and trimmings typically make up a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in America. Thanksgiving is about being thankful, which I am too but oddly, I have to admit – I have a long-held gripe when it comes to Thanksgiving dinners. Going back years down the memory lane, I can’t count how many times a beautifully (and let’s be honest, some not-so) roasted turkey has come undone by either the gravy or the cranberry sauce or both. People pay so much attention to where they get their turkey from, then painstakingly go through creating a marinade, or brine, eye-popping stuffings, only to open a can of cranberry sauce to serve alongside. If they are a bit adventurous, they would make a cranberry sauce right in their kitchen using a well-guarded family recipe.

Maybe it is a matter of taste, but every cranberry sauce I have ever had the (mis)fortune of eating my turkey with, ended up driving me away from eating a turkey for the rest of the year. That sweet gelatinous bowl of berries weighed done by sugar, and maybe some orange juice is such a put-off for me. That made me venture into creating a new cranberry sauce which I would love to enjoy with my turkey, and hopefully, you would too. My cranberry sauce looks very much like the traditional one but tastes bright, bold, somewhat spicy and aromatic.


So how is this cranberry sauce different from the everyday versions? First off, it has some fine alcohol infused with whole spices. Is there anything in this world which alcohol cannot make better? The second thing is a clever, age-old technique from India which uses fire-roasted cayenne chilies to introduce a smokey heat into the mix. Lastly, Vermont dark maple syrup adds that mysterious aged maple sweetness (dark syrup spends extra time aging than regular maple syrup). My dark maple syrup came straight from the amazing farm – Stowe Maple Products, Stowe, VT (no affiliation). I was there in Stowe for fall color this year, so brought a few gallons (ok, not quite) of their addictive maple syrup with me. 

So, without further ado, let’s get down to creating our fine spiced cranberry sauce from scratch. 

Category: Side (Veg.)

Difficulty: Moderate

Ingredients:

Prepare Infused-Alcohol (step 1)

Ingredients:

4 Cloves (whole)

½ floret of Mace (Javitri, Indian grocery stores)

1 Inch long rolled cinnamon stick (Costco has these)

 Method: 

  1. In a tall shot glass, add 1Oz of Cointreau liquor (this is made by infusing alcohol with orange peels) and 1 oz of your favorite Cognac (I used Courvoisier)
  2. Heat a small cast-iron skillet. When the skillet is hot enough, add cinnamon
  3. Add cloves and mace
  4. Stir gentle using a wood chopstick or spatula for about 2-3 minutes until you begin to smell the fragrance from the spices.
  5.  Quickly transfer all of the hot spiced into the shot glass filled with liquor and cognac and leave the whole spices submerged for about 30 minutes.
  6. When read to add, filter out the whole spices, and only add the infused liquor as well as the cinnamon stick into the sauce. Your infused alcohol is ready to use.

Prepare Fire Roasted Cayenne Chilies (step 2)

Ingredients:

1-2 Whole dried Cayenne chilies (Indian grocery stores)

Method: 

  1. On open flame (this part calls for open flame preferably. A gas stove works perfectly), place a perforated metal diffuser plate (if you have one). If you don’t have a diffuser plate, never mind.
  2. Holding one chili between metal tongs, roast each chili on low, consistent flame until the chilies are blacked completely without burning to charcoal all the way. You will have to keep turning the tongs to do this right.
  3. Turn the flame off, and let the roasted chilies cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Using a mortar and pestle, coarsely pound the roasted chilies into powder. 
  5. Keep this roasted chili powder covered until needed.

Spiced Cranberry Sauce (final step)

Ingredients:

2 – 16Oz bags of high quality, mostly red cranberries or one 16Oz packet and ½ cup of cranberry juice. Wash and pick out any broken or bad cranberries.

1 Cup packed Brown Sugar.

See Also

½ Inch piece of fresh ginger root minced using a knife.

2.5 Oz Vermont Dark maple syrup (can substitute the regular Vermont maple syrup).

Salt – 1/10th teaspoon (this is powdered salt you can hold between the tips of your pointer and index fingers. This is a very tiny amount.

½ cup – Cranberry juice (I used my juicer to squeeze fresh cranberry juice using 14oz of cranberries from one of the two packets). If you are buying your’s, please make sure to get one with no sugar added.

1-1/2 Tsp unsalted butter (helps prevent the bottom layer from burning.

1 Tbsp A good quality orange marmalade.

1 Tsp Corn starch mixed into 1 tbsp cold water.

Orange zest from one orange or ½ tsp wild orange oil (Amazon).

Method: 

  1. Heat a heavy bottom stainless-steel saucepan onto medium-high heat for a few minutes.
  2. Add butter, let the butter froth up and begin to brown up a little
  3. Add 16-18 Oz of washed and rinsed cranberries
  4. Add minced ginger
  5. After a minute and a half, add all the brown sugar, mix.
  6. Add the ½ cup cranberry juice you made or bought.
  7. Add Salt.
  8. Add roasted chili powder from step 2 above.
  9.  Cook the mix together on medium-high until cranberries begin to pop or wilt away.
  10. After about 8 minutes, add all of the maple syrup.
  11. Reduce heat to a minimum, and add the cinnamon stick from the infusing alcohol, followed by all of the alcohol from the tall shot glass.
  12. Stir the contents, and add the corn starch slurry.
  13. Add the orange marmalade
  14. Add orange zest or wild orange oil, whichever you are using
  15. Taste the sauce and adjust sweetness as per your own taste preference.
  16. The sauce will store well in the fridge for about a month.

Ansh Sarkari has varied interests which range from gourmet cooking to foraging for wild mushrooms, photography to knife sharpening to politics. He researches foods from around the globe and using his nearly four decades of food-centric travels, he has amassed keen insights into food identities of various nations and cultures, and how some even may correlate. He is always tinkering with techniques, spices and uses his deep expertise in all things fire to try to elevate foods of all kinds. Ansh lives in the Midwest with his wife and two grown-up children. Find him on Facebook and Instagram.

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