Old Fashioned Cranberry Sauce
Before we moved to West Virginia, we used to crawl around on our hands & knees hand gathering cranberries & filling bag after bag with their delightfully bright, light oblong bodies. Now that we are no longer near any cranberry bogs, we are thankful that we can find fresh raw organic cranberries at the grocery store. I have made many delicious dishes utilizing all the berries we gathered over the years. The final year we gathered berries, we knew it was the last as we had just purchased our first (& hopefully our last) home - this one!
We filled jar after canning jar with berries & packed the freezer full! Once we settled in, I made the most important recipe of all, my old fashioned cranberry sauce. Now we have row after row of quilted jelly jars on the shelf to show for our efforts. Each one is a tiny part of our past waiting to be enjoyed in the future.
This Thanksgiving as I pulled out a slightly dusty garnet red jar, my thoughts drifted to my Nana as they do every season. Nana was never easy to please. She complained much more than she praised. Compliments were like glittering jewels on the hilt of a very sharp tongue. On the Thanksgiving she first tried my home made cranberry sauce the praise seemed to never end. Not only did Nana compliment the sauce, she exclaimed over it in utter delight! I was amazed. I was thrilled. I pinched myself for surely this is a dream. Nana is never happy. Perhaps we should slap each other silly? But no, Nana was sincere. It wasn't a dream. I made Nana happy. Finally having done something that met with her approval, I diligently prepared this cranberry sauce for every Thanksgiving & Christmas dinner no matter what.
Every October I made sure to never be without fresh cranberries. You would find us crawling around the cranberry bogs collecting our bags of berries, clothes stained with from crushed berries & tired smiles on our sunburned faces (I've since learned to wear a sun hat). We would dump the berries out in the sink when we got home to sort out the bad berries, pick off the little stems & rinse away the dirt. Next we put them into canning jars raw, filling at least one shelf in the freezer with Mother Natures M&M's. The reward for our hard work was in seeing Nana's face alight with pleasure and I have to admit, I happen to like my cranberry sauce too!
It has been many years since Nana has passed from our lives, but my home made cranberry sauce lives on (albeit without the bog crawling). It is strange how that which seems so insignificant to one holds profound weight to another. When I see my jars of sauce on the shelf, I keep her alive in my heart & memories with every deep red spoonful.
12 Ounces of Fresh or Frozen Cranberries
1 Cup of Water
1 Cup of Sugar Cane, Maple Sugar, Mayple Syrup, or Honey
1/2 tsp. of Orange Zest
Rinse the cranberries in cool water, discarding any stems or blemished berries.
In a 3 quart saucepan bring the water & sugar to a boil. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
Add the cranberries & simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop (this can get a bit messy), about 10 minutes.
Stir in the orange zest.
Cover & refrigerate until chilled.
If you enjoy organic oranges, you can make your own orange zest using a zester. I zest all of my citrus fruit for this purpose. I put the fresh zest into individual glass dessert dishes & let them sit on top of our toaster oven. We don't own a microwave. We reheat our home cooked meals using either the toaster oven or the stove top. This means the toaster oven gets a good amount of use. The heat from the toaster dries out the zest without damaging it. When the dessert bowls are full, I put the dried zest into a coffee grinder & pulse to the consistancy that I like. I then store the zest in pint amber glass canning jars.
You can also use a dehydrator to dry your zest.
If you would like to put up your sauce, be sure to use sugar cane for your sweetener. I process mine using 6 ounce jelly jars in a hot water bath just like I would for jams. Check your Ball Blue Book for recommended times based on your elevation. My cranberry sauce is naturally acidic & sugary which helps prevent undesirable bacteria.
I know the recommend shelf life for canned goods is one year. I am happy to report, that my canned cranberry sauce lasted more than 6 years. I made a big batch & I am the only one who eats it, so yep, it lasted a long while! I am not recommending you let yours sit beyond one year. Please follow the safety guidelines provided in the most current Ball Blue Book you can get your hands on.
If you can't use sugar cane, you can always freeze your sauce. When I have sauce that doesn't seal & I know I wont eat it soon, I label it & date it & pop it in the freezer. You can do the same thing with your honey or maple sweetened cranberry sauce. If you wish to can it, Putting It Up With Honey is a great canning book. I currently do not have any recommendations for maple at this time.
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