Cranberry sauce is a staple on my holiday table, especially at Thanksgiving. The bright red sauce not only adds a pop of color to my plate, but it also introduces a wonderfully fruity element that pairs well with many holiday favorites, from turkey to mashed potatoes. For years, I bought cranberry sauces, but once I realized how much of a difference fresh ingredients make on the flavor of the finished sauce, I started making my own and never looked back!
About this fresh cranberry sauce recipe
Cranberries and oranges are a timeless combination. The natural sweetness of the orange brings out the subtle sweetness of the cranberries, which are known for being tart on their own. This cranberry-orange sauce only has three ingredients: fresh oranges, whole cranberries and brown sugar.
Fresh orange juice is the key to this sauce because it simply has a much better flavor than bottled orange juice. You will need from two to four oranges, depending on how juicy your fruit is, to get enough juice for the recipe.
Before juicing your oranges, use a vegetable peeler to remove two 2- or 3-inch strips of orange zest from the fruit. These strips of zest contain lots of natural orange oil and they will intensify the orange flavor of the sauce as they cook.
I used fresh cranberries when making this sauce because they are readily available at my local stores right now. If you can’t find fresh cranberries, frozen cranberries can be substituted and will work just as well in the sauce. The finished sauce not only has the signature sweet-tart flavor of cranberries, but it has a deep orange flavor and a hint of molasses from the brown sugar.
It only takes about 10 minutes to make the cranberry sauce once you have all of your ingredients in your sauce pan, but you don’t need to set a timer to know when the sauce is done because the cranberries themselves will let you know. As they cook, the cranberries will begin to “pop” as their skins split open.
Like popcorn popping in the microwave, the cranberries will pop vigorously at first, then the popping will slow. When only a few berries are still popping, the sauce is ready.
The sauce will thicken up considerably as it cools, so don’t worry if it seems to have a lot of liquid after you remove it from the heat. Serve it alongside your favorite turkey recipe – and don’t forget to save some to spread on turkey sandwiches made with the leftovers.
Cranberry-orange sauce recipe
Makes approximately 4 cups
- 1 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 16-z whole cranberries, fresh or frozen
- Two 2-inch strips of orange zest (optional)
In a large saucepan, combine orange juice and brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
Add cranberries into the orange juice mixture and turn the heat up to high. Add orange zest, if using. Cook until the cranberries start to burst, then turn the heat down to medium to prevent splatters. Continue cooking for several minutes, until most of the cranberries have “popped,” about 10 minutes.
Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool. Remove strips of orange zest. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Got leftovers? Use it to top these mouth-watering turkey croissant sandwiches.
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