Kick the Can: 3 Ways to Make Fantastic Homemade Cranberry Sauce
The Institute of Culinary Education is one of the largest culinary schools in the world, offering both professional and recreational programs in New York City. Here, Chef Jenny McCoy, chef instructor in their School of Pastry & Baking Arts shares her take on creative ways to cook with cranberries for Thanksgiving and beyond with PEOPLE.
Cranberry season is in full swing, and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, what better time to rethink your cranberry sauce? I find people either love cranberry sauce or don’t like it at all. I happen to be someone who loves it. The bright color on my dinner plate pops against the whites, browns and greens of turkey, stuffing and veggies. The super bright and tart flavor is a much-needed contrast against rich and heavy side dishes (often drowned in gravy). Plus, a schmear of cranberry sauce on a leftover turkey sandwich is a crucial component of one of my favorite lunches.
Each year, I change up my recipe to keep myself excited about the sauce, but also to convert a few family members who are convinced they just don’t like it. I’m sharing a few of my favorite recipes, but before we get into the kitchen, let me tell you a few things about America’s quintessential Thanksgiving fruit.
Cranberries: One of the most American ingredients
Wild cranberries have long been consumed by New England’s Native Americans, for some 12,000 years. The fruit is one of a handful of our country’s indigenous fruits. Cranberries thrive in their natural environments; bogs created by glaciers thousands of years ago. Prized for their culinary purposes, cranberries were also used for medicinal purposes and as a dye for textiles.
Though the early European settlers enjoyed them, larger-scale cultivation of cranberries didn’t begin until the early 1800s, when Captain Henry Hall, a revolutionary war veteran, noticed that his cranberries grew best when his bogs were covered in wind-blown sand. He moved his vines to more favorable locations and as his production grew, his method of cultivation spread. Other growers adopted his method of covering their berries in sand, increasing the yields of cranberry production throughout the northeast region, especially in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
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Have you ever seen a cranberry harvest? You may recall those cranberry juice commercials featuring farmers in waist-high waders, standing in what looked like a pond covered in cranberries. Well, that’s precisely how cranberries are “picked.” Cranberry bogs are filled with water (up to a couple of feet though, not waist-high) the night before harvest. The vines are then raked to loosen the berries from the plants. The berries float to the surface of the water because they contain little air pockets, allowing them to be collected efficiently.
In 2015, over 840 million pounds of cranberries were produced in the United States. While many of us associate New England with cranberry growing, it is Wisconsin that now corners the market, having produced 60 percent of the country’s annual yield.
With 20 percent of the annual harvest eaten on one day of the year — Thanksgiving — let’s take a moment to celebrate this most American fruit and discover a few new ways to add cranberries to your Thanksgiving table!
Go Raw Cranberry RelishServes 8 to 10
One 12-oz. bag of fresh cranberries
2 tangerines (with peels)
1- to 2-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and chop until fine.
2. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days before serving.
Smoky Bacon Cranberry SauceServes 8 to 10
One 12-oz. bag of cranberries
1 cup light brown sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. smoked paprika
½ to ¾ cup cooked bacon crumbles, to taste
1. In a medium saucepan, simmer the cranberries, sugar, orange zest and black pepper until the cranberries have broken down and the liquid has thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes.
2. Let the cranberry sauce cool to room temperature and stir in the paprika and bacon to taste.
3. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 5 days before serving.
Herbed Cranberry RelishServes 8 to 10
One 12-oz. bag of cranberries
¼ cup honey
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large bunch parsley, stems removed
3 large sprigs fresh rosemary, stems removed
4 cloves garlic
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ bunch scallions, finely sliced
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. In a medium saucepan, simmer cranberries, honey and sugar until the cranberries have broken down and the liquid has thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes.
2. Let the cranberry sauce cool to room temperature.
3. In the bowl of a food processor, combine parsley, rosemary, garlic and olive oil. Finely chop, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add additional olive oil, if needed.
4. Stir the chopped herbs and garlic mixture into the cooled cranberry sauce. Add the sliced scallions.
5. Add the red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.
6. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days before serving.
Want to study with Chef Jenny? Click here for information on ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.