Ah, Thanksgiving! The mere mention of the word fills our hearts with warmth and our minds with images of a beautifully laid table adorned with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and more. But what truly completes this festive tableau is that little bowl filled to the brim with vibrant, tangy cranberry sauce. As we gear up for another round of family gatherings and feasting this holiday season, let’s take a moment to pay tribute to this underrated hero of the Thanksgiving spread.
Origin Story – How Cranberries Became a Part of the Feast
Did you know cranberries are one of only three fruits native to North America? The other two being blueberries and Concord grapes. Native Americans were using these tart berries long before Europeans arrived on the continent.
When it comes to their place on the Thanksgiving table though, historians believe cranberries may not have been part of that very first feast shared between Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians in 1621. That’s because sugar, an essential ingredient for making cranberry sauce as we know it today, was a precious commodity back then.
However, by 1663 references start appearing in English cookbooks about boiling these tangy berries with sugar until they burst into a “sauce”. From there began cranberry sauce’s journey towards becoming an integral part of our festive meals.
To Jell or Not To Jell – What’s Your Sauce Style?
Nowadays when we think about cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving dinners, most often we imagine a wobbly jelly-like substance neatly sliced onto plates. This canned jellied version has indeed become quite popular since Ocean Spray commercially introduced it back in 1941. Convenience certainly played its role here; just open a can, slide out the gelatinous cylinder, slice it up and voila! It also has that old-school nostalgic charm for many.
But on the other side of the spectrum, there are those who swear by homemade cranberry sauce. The kind where you can see and taste whole or roughly chopped berries, simmered in sugar and maybe spiced up with some orange zest, cinnamon or nutmeg. This version has a more complex flavor and texture profile that many find irresistible.
Either way, whether you’re team jelly or team relish, what matters most is that your cranberry sauce brings joy to your Thanksgiving dinner!
Let’s Get Saucy – A Simple Cranberry Sauce Recipe
Now that we’ve paid homage to this festive condiment, why not try making it at home? Here’s a simple recipe for homemade cranberry sauce:
- 1 cup (200g) sugar
- 1 cup (240ml) water
- 4 cups (1 12-oz package) fresh or frozen cranberries
- Optional: Pecans, orange zest, raisins, cinnamon
- Wash cranberries under cool running water and discard any that look bruised or shriveled.
- Combine sugar and water in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
- Add cranberries to the pan.
- Continue cooking over medium heat until the berries start to burst – around ten minutes.
- If desired, add any optional ingredients like pecans for crunch or orange zest for an extra zing.
- Remove from heat and pour into a serving dish. Your sauce will thicken as it cools.
And there you have it! A bowl of deliciously tangy-sweet homemade cranberry sauce ready to grace your Thanksgiving table.
Conclusion – A Toast to Tradition
Thanksgiving is all about gratitude and tradition; it’s about gathering together with loved ones and sharing good food made with love. And while we always cheer for the turkey, the stuffing, and the pumpkin pie, let’s not forget to raise a toast to our humble bowl of cranberry sauce this year. After all, what is Thanksgiving without this delightful medley of tart and sweet? Whether it comes from a can or from your own kitchen, cranberry sauce remains an enduring symbol of this beloved holiday.
So here’s wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving filled with love, laughter and plenty of cranberry sauce!
Note: If you’re team jelly and still want to make your cranberry sauce at home: after step 4 in the recipe above, strain out the whole berries. Then return the liquid to heat until it forms a smooth gelatinous texture. Cool in a mold for that traditional canned shape.