Aside from turkey, one of the (side) dishes that are a mainstay in thanksgiving dinners is cranberry sauce. While some households serve fresh cranberry sauce with their Thanksgiving dinners, the common practice is to serve cranberry sauce straight from the can in its jelly form. Cranberry sauce wasn’t originally served as a jelly, though. This “invention” if we can call it that, was born out of necessity. When wet harvesting of cranberries started to become the new “norm” for harvesting, a lot of the berries that were harvested became too damaged to sell as fresh. With a little bit of marketing savvy and the application of canning technology, the cranberry sauce we all know and love (subjective I tell you) was born!
Fresh Cranberry Sauce Trivia
- Perfectly ripe cranberries will bounce due to an air pocket inside the fruit. Another name for cranberry is bounceberry, for good reason.
- The same air inside the cranberries that cause them to bounce is actually the reason why the berries float.
- It takes approximately 200 cranberries to make one can of cranberry sauce.
- If you’re old enough to remember the classic song “Strawberry Fields” by the Beatles, you’ll be surprised to learn that John Lennon said “cranberry sauce” twice at the end of the song.
Fresh Cranberry Sauce Buying Guide
Cranberry sauce is pretty much dominated by a few brands. If you’re out shopping for thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, the first instinct would be to grab the closest can on the shelf. The reason for this is the perception of people about cranberry sauce is that they’re all the same.
It wouldn’t hurt though to take a few minutes to check the label for some information that may affect your buying decision. There’s one glaring ingredient in canned cranberry sauce that you will never find in fresh cranberry sauce, and that is high fructose corn syrup.
Another reason to check the label is to see if the cranberries are grown organically. The reason for this is because while it may “just” be cranberry sauce, a lot of people don’t know that commercial cranberry farming has a very large environmental impact (more on that later).
Fresh Cranberry Sauce Production & Farming in Texas
As we mentioned earlier, cranberry sauce production is dominated by just a few brands and that’s true even in Texas. Even though Texas has hundreds of locally grown fruits and vegetables, sadly cranberries aren’t one of them.
That being said, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t any producers that make small-batch artisan cranberry sauce. Many specialty jam and jelly producers will have some cranberry jelly or fresh cranberry sauce for sale, just drop by your local farmers’ market and there’s a decent probability that you can find some for sale.
If you do get a bottle of fresh cranberry sauce from a local producer, don’t expect it to be plain and sweet like the canned varieties though. Locally produced fresh cranberry sauce will more often than not have spices like cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cloves, and other spices added to it. You know what they say about Texas food, right? Big in taste, and cranberry sauce isn’t an exception to that.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Now we did mention earlier that commercial cranberry production leaves a huge environmental impact and we’re going to explain why.
Most commercial cranberry production that goes into making canned cranberry sauce is mechanically harvested by flooding the cranberry bog patches. Even if the pesticide, chemical, and fertilizer use for commercial cranberry production are heavily regulated, the water runoff isn’t.
To put it into simpler terms, once the cranberry bogs are flooded, all the excess chemicals are pulled from the ground and into the water. And where does the water go when it is drained? Down through areas not used as planting fields and finally to bigger bodies of water that get polluted by all of the chemicals from the runoff.
More than taste and flavor, this highlights the need to support local producers, even if it’s “just” for fresh cranberry sauce.
For commercially made cranberry sauce, we would say about 99% of all cranberry sauces are packed in tin cans. Some smaller producers make organic cranberry sauce that is packed in glass jars to preserve the taste of the sauces and avoid the metal taste that comes with canning in tin cans.
Enjoying Fresh Cranberry Sauce
While many people think that cranberry sauce is only a condiment to be used with turkey during thanksgiving or as a side dish during Christmas dinners, cranberry sauce does have a lot of uses. It can be used as a jam on toast, as a flavoring component for yogurt, and it can even be used as a warm sauce for many sweet dishes.
Cranberry sauce can also be used as a glaze for grilled meats. A few minutes before your meat is done grilling, give it a good swipe with cranberry sauce and you’ll know what we mean.
For fresh cranberry sauce, it can be stored in the fridge for a good two weeks before it needs to be disposed of. As long as it is packaged properly in a freezer-safe container, you can freeze cranberry sauce for up to a year, this is a great make-ahead alternative to buying commercial cranberry sauce.
Make Your Own Fresh Cranberry Sauce:
Now, this might not be your typical cranberry sauce recipe (some might even call it a relish) but it works great in a pinch and the best thing is, you don’t have to wait till the holidays to enjoy it!
Fresh Cranberries, 350 grams (if organic fresh isn’t available, substitute one 12-oz package of frozen cranberries)
Orange 1 piece, peeled and segmented (Any locally grown orange will do)
Jalapeno peppers, 2 pieces, seeded
Sugar, 1 cup (Reduce or increase, depending on the sweetness you want)
Fresh cilantro, ¼ cup
In a food processor, blend sugar and cranberries until well incorporated, remove and transfer to a bowl.
Give the orange a good pulse in the food processor to break it up, then add to the bowl with the cranberries. Repeat with jalapeno peppers.
Mix everything up and allow flavors to meld for at least 30 minutes.
Note: For longer-term storage, this recipe can be frozen for up to six months.