One of the most prominent features of Thanksgiving is tradition and tradition means different things to different people. But one requirement I have never understood is the need for canned, jellied cranberry sauce. More than once I have been told that the ridged shape of the can itself must be visible in the mold of the sauce for certain family members to enjoy it! Really?!?
Fortunately this is an easy enough request to fulfill. I can open the can on both ends and push it out onto a plate and say, “There you go, knock yourself out” but I don’t have to settle for that myself!
The cranberry is so quintessentially seasonal and New England that next to the turkey itself it is for me, a symbol of Thanksgiving. There is so much one can do with this tart bright berry. My choice this year is a chutney which makes use of dried fruit and will be a perfect counterpoint for the more earthy flavors of squash, potatoes, turkey and gravy.
Start with equal parts vinegar and sugar. For a single 12oz bag of fresh cranberries you should use about a cup of each. You can use almost any flavor of vinegar but for me the season calls for apple cider vinegar. I also prefer brown sugar because it melts easily but regular table sugar will work fine.
To this add a whole onion chopped finely. Again, the type of onion is up to you, but here I like a red onion simply because it is pretty.
Now add dried fruit. Once again, the choice is yours. You could use prunes, raisins, persimmons, apricots, or even sun dried tomatoes. Experiment!
The last thing to add before the cranberries is the spices. This too is up to the individual but Thanksgiving calls for a certain combination of things like whole cloves, fresh ginger (minced), allspice, and in my case, whole cinnamon sticks.
Bring this whole mixture to a simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar and mix the ingredients. Then add the cranberries. It will seem somewhat dry because the cup of vinegar quickly thickens with the sugar and fruit but it won’t take long for the cranberries to yield their moisture.
Simmer the berries on low stirring gently somewhat frequently. Slowly the berries will burst and as they do the chutney will become more of a sauce and thicken before your eyes. You pretty much want all the berries to burst and this should take 10-15 minutes.
Remove the sauce to a bowl and let cool and this can be made days in advance–and will actually benefit from being made in advance. Make plenty because this is also a fantastic condiment on post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches!