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I love cranberry sauce. It might be my favorite part of Thanksgiving. That and the turkey. And the stuffing. And the pie. And pumpkin bread! Okay, it’s really hard to pick just one, but cranberry sauce is definitely up there.
My parents practically have to have a can of cranberry sauce just for me. When I was little, I only liked the jellied kind. When I got a little older, I grew to appreciate whole berry cranberry sauce. I became a bit of a cranberry sauce snob – only Ocean Spray brand, please! The store brand stuff is not up to snuff.
Then I ventured into the realm of making my own cranberry sauce. First I went the traditional route, the recipe on the bag of Ocean Spray cranberries. And that’s good, but I guess I’m not too crazy about the cranberry-orange combination in my sauce. No matter how much I love cranberry sauce, I just can’t get into my dad’s cranberry-orange relish, made with raw cranberries. It’s just too.. tart. And overwhelmingly orange-y. A cranberry-orange sauce is too close to a cranberry-orange relish for my tastes… I like it, but I won’t go crazy for it.
And then I came across this recipe. Cranberry sauce with maple syrup and brown sugar. I think my brain exploded a little bit. I knew this would be cranberry sauce nirvana.
And it is. Oh boy is it ever. I’m nuts about this sauce. It is deliciously tart with just the right amount of sweetness. The maple syrup, brown sugar and vanilla combine to give it a great richness and depth of flavor. You definitely can taste the maple-y goodness of the syrup through the bright tartness of the cranberries. I never would have thought to combine maple syrup and cranberries, and it turns out they’re divine together. And with a recipe so simple (it takes less than 10 minutes from start to finish! No chopping, zesting, or juicing anything!), there’s really no reason for me to ever go back to canned sauce.
My hunt for the perfect cranberry sauce is over. This is it.
Maple Brown Sugar Cranberry Sauce
From Baking Bites
12-oz fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
Combine cranberries, maple syrup, brown sugar and water in a large saucepan and cook over high heat until cranberries start to pop. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cranberries finish popping and mixture comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract (if using).
Sauce can be served immediately or stored in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week.
When I was little, my parents would pack us in the car for a day trip to Lancaster County, PA – the heart of Amish Country. They’d drag us from store to store, loading up on cheap groceries, great-tasting local milk, bulk bags of old-fashioned oats and dried fruit for my dad’s homemade granola. One of the highlights of the trip for us kids, aside from seeing the horse-drawn carriages and the people dressed in funny clothes, was the store where my parents bought the bulk dry goods. After our initial inspection of the shelves full of row after row of neatly arranged bags of raw cashews, dried apricots, sunflower seeds and who knows what else, we were inevitably drawn to the table that held the free samples of apple butter and apple cider. While my parents shopped, my siblings and I crowded around the table, scooping up way more than our fair share of apple butter with little oyster crackers, and devoured the spicy-sweet goodness.
Since then, apple butter has held a special place in my heart, a comforting yet elusive old favorite. It’s not something I find in most grocery stores, and when I do, it’s too overpriced for me to consider buying it. Every once in a while, my mom would return from their annual trip to Lancaster County with a jar of apple butter for me to take back to college or graduate school, but it’s a rare treat.
Had I known how ridiculously easy it is to make, I would’ve been having apple butter a lot more frequently.
I found this recipe on yumsugar.com, knew at once that I had to make it immediately, and then finally got around to it a year later. Shameful, especially considering how awesome this stuff is. I could eat it with a spoon (and believe me, I have), but I’m definitely looking forward to smearing some on a toasted cinnamon-raisin bagel tomorrow morning.
One word of caution: this recipe takes a long time to make. The majority of the time is hands-off while it’s simmering in the slow cooker, but don’t start this in early afternoon if you want to go to bed early.
Added bonus: this makes your house smell amazing all day long.
5 1/2 pounds apples – peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
Peel, core and chop your apples. Don’t worry too much about the chopping part because they will cook down and you will blend them all down to a saucy consistency later. Toss all the ingredients into a slow cooker (or heavy pot on the stove). Cover and cook on high heat for the first hour. Then turn the heat down to low for 8 to 10 hours. Take the cover off, blend until smooth and turn the heat back up to high for another hour or until most of the liquid is gone. Spoon into jars or freezable containers and pop in the fridge or freezer.
Notes: This can be done one the stove with a heavy pot, as well. Doing it in the slow cooker is just easier since you can throw it in, turn it on, and go have a Saturday adventure without worrying that you’re burning the house down. The one difference for cooking it on the stove: use medium high heat for the first and last hour. Also, I checked on mine every couple of hours, stirring it and making sure it wasn’t burning. When the apples started breaking down on their own, I moved on to the blending step – I don’t think I waited the full 8 hours. Finally, this makes a lot of apple butter – clear out some freezer space or be prepared to give it away to friends and neighbors.