Orange Spiced Cranberry Sauce

I’m almost embarrassed to admit how long it took me to realize that one could actually make cranberry sauce from scratch. For some reason, the thought had lodged in my brain through habit and advertising that cranberry sauce came from a can. Every Thanksgiving I would anticipate the slurp of the jellied cranberry sauce as it slid out onto a plate. I would designate myself the “cranberry sauce slicer” and happily slice up the jello-y, ruby-colored cylinder using the ridges from the can as a guide. These experiences account for my confusion as to why it was called “sauce.” Cranberry sauce is one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving because it’s one of those “Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving only,” foods. We might enjoy turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, or gravy throughout the year, but let’s be honest, the cranberry sauce makes Thanksgiving.

Growing up, my family was less fortunate and relied heavily on cheap, packaged foods that mostly came in the form of donations to the needy. Mine was a childhood mired with Velveeta cheese, Spam, and neon-orange colored, powdered juice mixes. Thanksgiving was one of the few occasions where fresh foods were prepared, but even then they were limited. Freeze dried potatoes were an abomination on the holiday, and my father would make gravy from the drippings of the turkey, but my family still preferred the pre-made pumpkin pie found in the grocery store, along with whipped cream from an aerosol can, stuffing from a bag and any combination of frozen corn, beans and peas.

It was only a few short years ago, while working at a natural foods grocery store (where I learned more about whole foods than I ever could have on my own) that I got my first taste of homemade cranberry sauce. It was that very moment when I realized that the “delicious,” jellied cranberry sauce in the can was nothing more than corn syrup* with some cranberry flavoring. Now that I know the difference, there’s no substitute for homemade. Over several holiday seasons I have spent time perfecting my own recipe for cranberry sauce. I don’t much care for like the leathery cranberry skins that seem to stick in your teeth all day, so I strain them out to get a velvety texture.

I learned the basic recipe from watching over the shoulder of a chef in the natural foods deli where I used to work circa 2006. I have added fragrant orange zest and crystallized ginger. The sugar can be adjusted to taste, as the orange juice will add sweetness as well as flavor.

Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce
16 oz cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1cup/ 8oz fresh orange juice
1 Tblsp grated orange zest
3 large pieces of crystallized ginger (or to taste), chopped
Pinch of sea salt
1 – 1 ½ cups evaporated cane sugar (or other natural sweetener)
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp of cornstarch (I use non-GMO) added to

Rinse the cranberries. Add orange juice, orange zest, ginger, sea salt and cinnamon to a large pot over medium heat. Let the juice come to a slow boil, this infuses the liquid with the ginger and cinnamon. Add cranberries and slowly add the sugar to dissolve. As the cranberries begin to heat and turn bright red, begin mashing or blending. I personally using a potato masher and it works just fine. A hand blender would also do the trick. As the mixture begins to boil and the berries are mashed, the juice will thicken. I add a little cornstarch to make a more jelly-like sauce, it’s completely optional.

Once the sauce has cooked and thickened (5-10mins). Turn off heat. I strain the sauce with a fine wire sieve. Chill 1 hour to overnight. Serve. See how easy that is? Who needs a can of sugary, processed cranberry jelly when you can make something as good as this.

The spices in this recipe make me think of Christmas. I can almost hear the jingle bells off in the distance.

*There is a lot of information on the web about high fructose corn syrup. In my personal opinion, it is not healthy to consume in even moderate amounts. See this study done at Princeton. This is one example of many that provide reasons to drop corn syrup from your diet. And again, this is not professional/medical advice but only a personal opinion informed by research.

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Learn by Failing

I cannot lie. I’ve been discouraged.

It’s been some time since I posted here and there are so many excuses, including time, money, and skill. I don’t have any plans to close up shop just yet but without the tools necessary to posting quality content, I’m not feeling too confident in my ability to continue. There are so many incredible food blogs out there and I spend a lot of my free time reading them, so I guess I just wanted to contribute my own particular point of view on cooking and dining. But something that goes unsaid on a lot of food blogs is that it takes a significant amount of energy and resources to single-handedly author a blog, especially if you want to post quality content.

The thing is, I lack resources. I don’t own my own home with a bright, airy kitchen and granite counter tops. I don’t have my own studio where I can set up elaborate sets with professional lights and cameras that cost thousands of dollars. I don’t even have photo editing software or natural light filtering onto my tabletop with which to take beautiful, professional photographs (as can be seen by the telltale “orangey” glow in some of my photos). So, there is a part of me that thinks I can’t really compete with what’s out there.

However, slinking around somewhere there is that other part of me, the part that doesn’t really care what other people are doing, the part that throws caution to the wind and does what she wants to do because it’s fun, not because it meets some “professional” standard. Right now, that part is the part winning the debate.

I guess some of my posts here would be considered failures by the standard of professional food bloggers, but I’m not a professional at anything really. I love to cook and I love to write and I like to pretend I can take a decent photo when the fancy strikes me.

I think I’m going to continue to learn by my mistakes, because that is really the best way to learn. And believe me, I have already failed at enough things to know how important and healthy failure can be.

In other news, I’ve been crocheting lately. I even finished this scarf:

It amazes what I can accomplish if I just structure my time well. I made the scarf in a little over a week of subway rides. I got a lot of weird stares however. At least one person told me it was “unusual” to see someone so young crocheting on the train. It didn’t really bother me because I have an old soul.

And as far as cooking, well this sums it up:

I am trying to plan out my meals for the week to save money and valuable time. So far, it’s been kind of tedious and has made cooking a drag. C’est la vie. Hopefully I’ll get it together and post a new recipe soon.