Wild Cranberry Sauce Cook-off

Recently, a friend invited me to pick wild cranberries in one of Halifax’s amazing wild spaces. I had never seen cranberries in action (aka growing) and was expecting medium size bushes surrounding a bog. I was – of course – mistaken.

Picking cranberries is nothing like the death-defying adventure of blackberry picking – something I had been doing quite a bit lately in the name of jam. Picking cranberries is like lying on a soft bed of moss surrounded by nature’s colourful bounty. I came home with a lot of cranberries.

So, I proposed a challenge to the Food Action Committee of the EAC – a wild cranberry sauce cook off. Here are the results, not necessarily in order…

CRANBERRY SAUCE #1

The apartment is filled with the smell of sweet honey, cloves and fruit. I usually stick to my mother’s recipe, which is just white sugar, water and a bag of cranberries. But reading cranberry sauce recipes which use black pepper, cinnamon and orange has made me brave.

I make it up as I go: Use a generous dollop of honey and decide to add more if it’s not sweet enough after cooking. Add lemon zest and larger pieces of peel because I don’t have an orange. I think pepper won’t go over well at the Thanksgiving table, but go with cinnamon and add a few black cloves. In the end, it tastes swell—absolutely as good as it smells.

2 cups cranberries, or approx. 12 ounces
1 cup water
1/4 cup honey approx.
1 tsp cloves
cinnamon stick
lemon zest

Mix all ingredients in a small pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat. Refrigerate after cooling.

 

CRANBERRY SAUCE #2
From Simply Recipes

1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 cup (250 ml) water
4 cups fresh cranberries
Optional : Pecans, orange zest, raisins, currants, blueberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

Add the sugar and water in a sauce pan. Stir the sugar to dissolve as the water is brought to a boil. Add cranberries!

Bring the water (now with cranberries) to a second boil until the berries burst. They make a surprising popping noise as they do so! Turn the heat down to ‘3’ or ‘4’ on the stove and let simmer for about ten minutes. After ten minutes, or when the sauce becomes a ‘saucy’ consistency (ha!) you can add any of the spices or extras you’d like!

Remove from heat, put the sauce in a bowl and put it in the fridge to cool further, it will thicken as it cools. You can eat it in the next few days or store it for another time.

The recipe is nice and simple. It’s easily divided or multiplied because it is difficult to have an exact amount of berries! I halved the recipe, but had a little more than two cups of berries, so I added about 1/8th of a cup of sugar to compensate. This made the finished sauce sweeter than store-bought kinds. If you prefer the sauce to be bitter, then use the recipe amount of sugar and don’t worry about adding any. If you’d like to make a sweeter or more spicy sauce (using cinnamon, ginger, allspice, or nuts) than a bit more sugar would support that well!

CRANBERRY SAUCE #3

3 cups apple cider
3/4 cup sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
1 Tbsp grated orange zest
2 1/2 cups cranberries

Bring the apple cider to a boil, simmer and reduce by half. This will take an hour or two.

Once the cider is about half, add sugar, cinnamon and orange zest and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the cinnamon sticks and add the cranberries. Here it gets a bit wild as the cranberries start to pop and splatter, my roommate Sam had to rescue me with the quick placement of a pot lid. So definitely have a quick-reflexed friend close at hand for that step.

Cook the cranberries over low heat for about 5 minutes. The sauce will thicken a bit, but it will thicken even more once chilled. I put mine in the freezer, but you can make this a couple of days ahead and simply keep it in the fridge.

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