The berries are naturally high in pectin, which means your sauce will gel quickly and easily, whether you start with fresh or frozen cranberries. You can keep your sauce chunky or puree it into a smoother texture using a hand blender.

After the holiday season, homemade cranberry sauce really comes into its own as a versatile condiment, marinade and dessert accompaniment. Slather it on top of meatloaf before baking for a sweet and sour take on an old classic. For something new, top meatloaf made using ground turkey or ground pork with it.

Mix cranberry sauce with a bit of vinegar and soy sauce for a do-it-yourself variation on plum sauce, perfect for dipping dumplings and spring rolls in. And like applesauce, you can use it on pancakes or mix it with plain yogurt for a healthy dessert. It even works as a jam, adding a tart but tasty new twist to your toast or peanut butter and jam sandwich.


Cranberry sauce


But there’s something really special about cranberry sauce and chicken. As the lunch guests of an elderly couple with whom we sang in a choir years ago, my mom and I were once treated to a cranberry-inspired chicken creation made by our host.

The dish turned out to involve only three ingredients: canned cranberry sauce and Kraft Italian salad dressing used as an overnight marinade for bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. The sweet and sour flavour combination and tenderness of the chicken has stayed in my memory for more than three decades and was the inspiration for my own version of this dish (recipe below), which blends homemade vinaigrette and home-canned cranberries. Feel free to substitute fresh or frozen berries if you don’t have canned, adjusting the amount of sweetener to your individual taste.

Another way to enjoy homemade cranberry sauce is in a favorite holiday appetizer – layered cranberry-baked Brie. The tangy sweetness of the cranberries balances the salty richness of the cheese beautifully. To make it, simply slice a round of refrigerated Brie (it needs to be cold) in half horizontally (like a hamburger bun). Top the bottom half with about 1/2 cup of cranberry sauce. Place the top half of Brie on the bottom half and add another 1/2 cup of cranberry sauce on top of it. Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper at 400°F (205°C) for about 10 minutes. Check often to make sure the Brie isn’t collapsing into a puddle! Serve garnished with chopped pecans or walnuts and a mild-tasting cracker or bread.

However you choose to enjoy your cranberries, I wish you happy munching!

Cranberry Sauce for Canning

(The basic recipe for cranberry sauce has been adapted from the Bernardin website.)

Yield = 4 x 500mL jars

8 cups whole fresh or frozen cranberries
4 cups of white sugar
4 cups of water
The zest and juice from one large orange
Optional: 1 cinnamon stick

To prepare the jars and lids: Put clean canning jars on a rack in a boiling water canner. (You can also use a large stockpot, clam or lobster pot for this purpose.) Cover them with water and bring to a boil.

Put snap lids in a small saucepan with hot, not boiling, water.

Wash the cranberries and pick out any mushy ones. Bring water and sugar to a boil in a large saucepan and add the berries, orange zest and juice, and cinnamon stick (if using). Return to a boil, stirring frequently until the berries burst and the mixture thickens. Remove cinnamon stick, if used, and ladle hot cranberry sauce into jars, leaving 1/2” (1cm) of headspace (space at the top of the jar). Wipe rims and seal until the screw-top band is finger-tight. Return filled jars to boiling water canner, making sure they are covered by at least 1” of water. Cover canner and begin timing once water comes back to a boil: 15 minutes for 500mL jars (10 minutes for 250mL, should you be using them).

Lift jars out of canner and allow them to cool upright. Do not re-tighten lids. Store in a cool, dark place (a basement works well). Best if used within a year.


Cranberry preserves


Sweet and Sour Cranberry Chicken Breasts

Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or a mixture of dried basil, oregano and thyme)
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
Dash of pepper

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until well blended. Mix dressing with 1 cup of cranberry sauce. Pour cranberry dressing over 4 bone-in chicken breasts and allow them to marinate in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

Bake breasts for about 45 – 60 minutes at 350°F (175°C) or until meat is cooked through. (A meat thermometer should read 165°F or 75°C.)

Serve over rice with an accompaniment of steamed vegetables or salad.

Cranberries

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Elizabeth Peirce

Elizabeth Peirce is an award-winning author, editor, gardener and teacher. Her book You Can Too! Canning, Pickling, and Preserving the Maritime Harvest is available from Nimbus Publishing and at all major bookstores. Her new book Grow Hope: A Simple Guide to Creating Your Own Food Garden At Home will be released in early 2021. Elizabeth offers workshops that focus on how to grow and preserve our own food and she is hard at work on an online course called "Gardening in Tough Times." Visit her website at elizabethpeirce.ca.

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