Warning: this is a really long blog post about a really simple recipe. You’ve been warned.
Round about July 17 (ballpark) I start getting really, really sick of summer. I get sick of butter-thick humidity, toe sweat, weird flesh-eating bug bites and not watching Christmas movies. I start wanting to whip out my full-sized leg lamp and hibernate.
All the vitamin D in the world couldn’t fix my sick-o-summer sadness.
Trudging depressed and despondent through the freezer section at Whole Foods last week, as I channeled my irritation by scoffing at the xanthan-gum-filled “all-natural” ice cream section, I spotted something uplifting:
Cranberries. Frozen cranberries. In a bio-degradable bag. This kind. Huzzah!
Since cranberries are as tart as I feel these days, and because cranberries are the #1 reason I love the plant world and the #2 reason I love the holiday season, I didn’t hesitate. The only thing easier than slopping cranberry sauce out of a can – blech – is making true cranberry sauce on the stovetop.
Why do I call it Summer Cranberry Sauce? Because it’s the summer. Serve it cold if you need to make it more special. But – secret – it’s really just Good Cranberry Sauce, free of highly refined, GMO-derived sugar and anything that slithers out of a can.
Bad cooks: if you’re asked to bring a dish to holiday dinner, and you’re not a high-achiever in the kitchen, and your family isn’t one for true from-scratch cooking (therefore, they probably don’t know how easy-peasy real, non-canned cranberry sauce actually is to make and will therefore be incredibly impressed with your contribution), volunteer to bring cranberry sauce.
And practice making it all year round.
Cranberries can be added to almost anything to pucker up the flavor. I’ve added cranberry sauce to bison hash, to burgers, and to roasted root vegetables. (If you’re wanting my recipe for bison hash, here it is: Put onion, bison, and butternut squash chunks in a skillet. Cook it.)
Don’t put a bird on it. Put a cranberry on it! Don’t pickle it. Cranberry it!
So here’s how you make it: for every 10-ish ounces of cranberries, you’ll mix 1/3 cup of water with 1/3 cup of the minimally-refined sugar of your choice, whether that be raw honey, maple syrup, fresh-squeezed juice or unicorn tears.
Everybody stay calm! Don’t be afraid of the sweetener in this recipe. For 95% of people, STRESSING over a little sugar is worse than HAVING a little sugar. I’m not a low-carber, and I don’t use artificial sweeteners. I rarely use Stevia. To make cranberries taste yummy, you have to balance the tart with some sweet. Trust.
So: put the water and sweet stuff in a saucepan (but DON’T add the berries yet). Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring so all the sweetener dissolves, then add the cranberries. Reduce the heat slightly, but keep it bubbling.
Cook for about 10 minutes. You’ll notice the cranberries “popping” (kinda) and everything will sorta meld together, thickening over the course of 10 minutes.
You can play with this recipe in a thousand ways, and most of them are guaranteed to impress. For holidays, add 1tsp cinnamon and a pinch of clove to the mix as it cooks. Switch out the water for fresh orange juice. Use fairy sweat instead of unicorn tears.
Get crazy. They’re only cranberries.