Next time you need cranberry sauce, I urge you to make your own. Not only is it incredibly easy to make, but you can jazz it up and make it more exciting than the humdrum store-bought variety. In this recipe, I love the addition of fragrant orange zest and orange liqueur…very tasty!
-recipe from Cook’s Illustrated (November 1999)
What combination of basic ingredients—cranberries, sweetener, and liquid—would give us a cranberry sauce recipe with a clean, pure cranberry flavor and with enough sweetness to temper the assertively tart fruit but not so much that the sauce would be cloying or candylike? It turned out that simpler was better. White table sugar balanced the tartness of the cranberries without adding a flavor profile of its own. As for liquid, water—not cider, orange juice, or cranberry juice—won out in our cranberry sauce recipe. We also discovered that adding just a pinch of salt brought out an unexpected sweetness in the berries, heightening the flavor of the sauce overall.
The cooking time in this recipe is intended for fresh berries. If you’ve got frozen cranberries, do not defrost them before use; just pick through them and add about 2 minutes to the simmering time. Orange juice adds little flavor, but we found that zest and liqueur pack the orange kick we were looking for in this sauce. Makes about 2 1/4 cups.
3/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 (12-ounce) bag cranberries, picked through
2 tablespoons orange liqueur (such as Triple Sec or Grand Marnier)
Bring water, sugar, orange zest, and salt to boil in medium nonreactive saucepan over high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Stir in cranberries; return to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until saucy, slightly thickened, and about two-thirds of berries have popped open, about 5 minutes. Off heat; stir in orange liqueur. Transfer to nonreactive bowl, cool to room temperature, and serve. (Can be covered and refrigerated up to 7 days; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.)