As a child, my only frame of reference for cranberries was cranberry bread at Christmastime and cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving. The smooth jellied sauce emerged quivering and jiggling from the can with a satisfying pop as the seal broke, sliding onto the plate whole, retaining its cylindrical shape and conveniently molded rings marking individual servings. A regular butter knife easily cut the cranberry sauce into perfectly round discs waiting to be plated alongside the turkey and stuffing.
For years this was the only cranberry sauce I knew, until one Thanksgiving when my aunt decided to bring something different. Change is never easy, and there was resistance. What was this lumpy whole berry blob? Where were the smooth, neat slices of cranberry sauce? Eyebrows were raised, whispers hushed as tentative spoonfuls were dropped onto plates in the spirit of being polite. Aunt Rosaleen held her head high and reassured us with confidence; the cranberry sauce was still from a can, though it was whole berry not jellied, to that she added a can of chopped pineapple and handful of walnuts. Initially skeptical, we were quickly won over by the contrast in texture between the whole berries and pineapple and the crunch of the walnuts. The sweetness of the pineapple also complemented and rounded out the dish.
Aunt Rosaleen’s cranberry sauce has been on the table ever since, though it has evolved. Today I use fresh cranberries and pineapple, and turn to some of my favorite fall spices- cloves, cinnamon, allspice berries, and ginger to infuse the cranberry cooking liquid, along with oranges (satsumas and clementines work very well, too). The result is a delicious mix of texture, tartness, sweetness, and spice. The sauce is a wonderful addition to your Thanksgiving plate and excellent on your leftover turkey sandwiches.
Do you or your family have a favorite cranberry sauce? Jellied or whole berry?
Cranberry Pineapple Sauce
1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
5 whole cloves
2 allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
1” piece ginger, peeled
1 orange, cut in half
1 cup chopped pineapple
1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts
Bring cranberries, sugar, water, cloves, allspice berries, cinnamon stick, ginger and orange to a boil in a medium sized sauce pan, stirring often to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally and pressing on the oranges (or satsumas/clementines) to release their juices, until the cranberries have popped, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and cool slightly. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. Remove cloves, allspice berries, cinnamon stick, ginger, and orange. Stir in pineapple and walnuts. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve. Sauce can be made up to a 1 week ahead. Serve chilled or at room temperature.