Once you make homemade cranberry sauce, you never go back. Never, ever. It dawned on me one year how odd it is to put so much effort into this huge elaborate meal where the turkey causes so much stress because it is the one time of year people who never roast meat actually do go through the process from buying a turkey to roasting it in the oven. The sense of accomplishment a home cook feels when this bird comes out of the oven looking like it does on the cover of a magazine is something one never forgets, similar to the memory and feeling a new first time mom feels when she gives birth to her first child. It’s like, “Wow, I did it!” But this is what irks me. It irks me to see canned cranberry sauce spooned into a bowl looking rather gelatinous next to a beautiful roasted turkey. I think to myself, “Why!??” Followed by, “How sad.” Just seems strange to have canned sauce on the table after all the work someone puts into roasting a turkey. And I realize some people like canned sauce. Fair enough. I like store-bought things too, guilty pleasures. But seriously, homemade cranberry sauce is so damn easy to make and tastes so much better than what you can buy in a can, it just seems so obvious to make it from scratch.
This cranberry sauce only uses 3 ingredients, 4 if you count the optional zest. The key to this sauce is using fresh satsuma mandarin oranges for the juice, zest, and garnish -remember, presentation counts! If you can find satsumas with the stem and leaves intact, the leaves also make great garnish accents and can be served in a bowl as part of an easy decorative centerpiece.
I use honey in this recipe for its sweet floral undertones which compliment the orange citrus flavor in a way that sugar doesn’t. Once the juice, honey, and fresh cranberries are cooked down into a thick sauce, the vibrant red color affirms every reason why homemade cranberry sauce is awesome and explains in one bite why once you go scratch you never go back.
Once last thing, you can make this sauce in advance, like today. Like right now. Any leftovers should be saved and used as a jam or in a sandwich like this one. You can also pour it over a block of cream cheese and serve it with crackers.
Happy pre-Thanksgiving to you!
- fresh cranberries
- Satsuma (mandarin) oranges
- optional: citrus zest and citrus leaves for garnish