Every holiday season, I look forward to anything made with cranberries. They taste so good (when sweetened) and their ruby-red color is beautiful. When I was growing up, we got our cranberry sauce from cans, and placed both the whole berry and jellied types on the table, as everyone had their preference. I liked the jellied kind best, but later in life, I experienced how delicious homemade whole-berry cranberry sauce is. I like both kinds equally now and place a dish of each on the table for guests. But sauce isn’t the only way to enjoy cranberries, of course. We can bake many things with them, and a couple of favorite recipes for baked goods are included here. Let’s roll out that red carpet for cranberries. (That reminds me of the time at a local grocery store when the lid to a very large carton of blueberries popped open and I dropped the whole thing on the floor. It was a carpet of blue rather than red, as the berries rolled everywhere. I did help clean them up, but still felt so bad.)
Jellied cranberry sauce
If desired, you can serve this as a whole-berry sauce, and just skip the sieve.
1 pound whole fresh cranberries, picked over
1/2 cup water
Zest of half a lemon (can use part lemon and part orange)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1. Combine the cranberries, water and lemon zest (or lemon and orange) in a large saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the cranberries have popped open and are soft.
2. Transfer the cranberry mixture to a fine mesh sieve and set over the saucepan. Press with a rubber spatula to strain the mixture through. Be sure to also scrape the bottom of the sieve periodically. Continue until the cranberry pulp looks dry and no more can be pushed through the sieve.
3. Stir the sugar into the cranberry mixture. Set the pan over the burner and heat over medium, stirring occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue cooking for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
4. Transfer the cranberry mixture to a dish to cool. It will take the shape of the dish, so choose the shape wisely. For easy unmolding, be sure to either rub the dish with oil or line with aluminum foil before pouring the cranberry sauce in. Tap gently to even out the top.
5. Chill the cranberry sauce in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours, until set. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Makes 8 servings.
Whole berry cranberry sauce
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4 cups (1 12-oz package) fresh or frozen cranberries
Optional: pecans, orange zest, raisins, currants, blueberries, cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice.
1. Place the cranberries in a colander and rinse them. Pick out and discard any damaged or bruised cranberries.
2. Place the water and sugar in a medium saucepan on high heat and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
3. Add the cranberries to the pan and return to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until most of the cranberries have burst.
4. Once the cranberries have burst you can leave the cranberry sauce as is, or dress it up with other ingredients. Remove the saucepan from heat. Let cool completely at room temperature, then transfer to a bowl to chill in the refrigerator. Note that the cranberry sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. Makes about 2 1/4 cups.
Cranberry apple pie
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
4 cups sliced peeled tart apples
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
Pastry for double-crust pie (9 inches)
1. Preheat oven to 425. In a large bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch, orange juice, cinnamon, apple pie spice, nutmeg and lemon juice. Add apples and cranberries; toss gently.
2. Line a 9-inch pie plate with bottom pastry. Add filling; dot with butter. Roll the remaining pastry to fit top of pie. Cut vents in pastry, using a small apple-shaped cutter if desired. Place over filling; seal and flute the edges.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350; bake 50 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Cranberry orange vanilla cookies
Made easier with a cookie mix from Krusteaz. Most cranberry cookie recipes call for dried ones, but this uses fresh. Doesn’t make a lot of cookies.
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
Zest of 1 medium orange (1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 box Krusteaz butter vanilla sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
Optional: 1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1. In a medium bowl, beat the egg, butter and orange zest until combined.
2. Add in the cookie mix and orange juice. Mix until dough comes together. Fold in cranberries and white chocolate chips, if using.
3. Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough into balls and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill dough for at least 30 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 350. Bake cookies until lightly browned around the edges, about 9 to 11 minutes. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 2 to 3 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. Makes 12 to 16 cookies.
Cranberry orange shortbread cookies
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 cup butter, cubed (cold)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Additional sugar to coat cookies before baking, if desired
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Add cranberries and 1/4 cup sugar into a food processor and process just until the cranberries are broken down into smaller pieces. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour and remaining sugar. Use a pastry blender to cut in butter, to very fine crumbs. Stir in the vanilla, processed cranberries and orange zest. Use your hands to knead the dough until it comes together and forms a ball. Work the dough just until it comes together so it isn’t overworked.
3. Shape dough into a log about two inches in a diameter and wrap in plastic wrap or parchment paper with plastic wrap on top of that. Refrigerate for two hours or up to 72 hours or freeze at this point.
4. When ready to cook, thaw (if necessary) and cut slices of cookie dough about 1/4 to 1/2 -inch thick. Place about 1/2 cup of sugar in a bowl and coat the cookie slices with sugar (optional).
5. Place cookies on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 325 for 10 to 12 minutes or just until cookies are set. Do not over bake. If you cut them about 1/2 -inch thick, it will probably take about 12 minutes. If you cut them thinner, decrease cooking time.
6. Let cookies cool for several minutes on baking sheet before removing to cooling rack. Let cool completely. Store in airtight container for 3 days or freeze up to 3 months. Makes 24 cookies.