My preparations for Thanksgiving Day are an extended affair because I like my holiday cooking to be easy so I may focus on family. Throughout the month, while I make our regular evening meal, I will also prepare one dish for the Thanksgiving Day meal. Over the years, I have found that much of the meal can be prepared in advance, frozen and reheated to great success. I have reduced my actual cooking on Thanksgiving to just the turkey and stuffing.
The first thing I usually make ahead every fall is the cranberry sauce. It is easy to prepare and can be frozen like any jam or jelly, but I prefer canning it in a boiling water bath. I make a lot of it, and we eat it throughout the winter — not just on Thanksgiving Day. If making only one or two jars, I will just let it keep in the refrigerator for up to four weeks.
In Kodiak’s produce sections, about the time that the huge quantities of fall squash diminish, you can count on the first appearance of cranberries. So, when I happened to see a two-pound bag of cranberries at Cost Savers for a smidge over $6, I put them into my cart immediately.
I love cranberries, but I have discovered more than a few people don’t care for them. When I come across such a person, I usually ask them how they came to mistaken conclusion that the cranberry should be avoided. In my investigations of this cranberry-hating phenomenon, I have discovered the usual culprit to be the sad cans of cranberry jelly. The contents of those are cranberry-like but bitter and metallic.
My husband was a cranberry-hater when we married, I was horrified to discover. Not to be deterred, I made my cranberry sauce and put some on his plate at dinner. If he knew what they were, he didn’t acknowledge it. But when he filled his plate for seconds, I noticed he got more cranberries. I guess that meant he liked them.
I like the canned cranberries and in a pinch will eat them, but they are terribly expensive. While the meatloaf cooked for tonight’s meal, I made two pounds of cranberries into four pints of cranberry sauce that tastes like cranberries and not the can. Including the sugar, that is about $1.75 per pint jar versus $2 or more for a 12-ounce to 14-ounce can of the pre-made jelly. Not a large savings, I suppose, but as my Grandma Hazel would say, “Take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves”.
Jodi Bart is a 12-year Kodiak resident and a longtime baker who writes a weekly column about tasty and affordable options for home cooking in remote Alaska.
Cranberry Sauce Recipe
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 package fresh cranberries
Optional Additions: zest of 1 orange, juice of 1 orange, 2 tsp. cinnamon, dash nutmeg, dash allspice.
Wash and inspect cranberries. There will be some bad ones, so be sure to do this. Put the all of the ingredients in a medium pan, stirring a little to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst.
Remove from heat and ladle into pint jars. Let jars cool on the counter for about 2-3 hours. Refrigerate until needed, up to four weeks.