Until recently, I happily ate shop bought cranberry sauce with my Christmas lunch. Bog standard, in a jar, from the supermarket. Year in, year out. And thought nothing of it. Even quite enjoyed it. Little did I know what I was missing out on… I was held back by the (as it now turns out, tragically misguided) belief that to make cranberry sauce from scratch would equate to topping an already too long to-do Christmas list with yet another chore – the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, as it were. I perceived the making of special relishes at Christmas as a feat simply too far entrenched within the realms of domestic godliness for my own modest culinary skill-set. Alas, I am ashamed to admit that I was somehow persuaded as to the futility of making from scratch something which is so readily available in jars in shops. ‘No one will notice the difference’ I told myself. I should have known better. Really, I should have.
For the first time this year, while experimenting in the kitchen, I decided to give making cranberry sauce a try, away from the pressures of Christmas day. It was an epiphany: one of those ‘Eureka’ moments when metaphorical fireworks popped across my kitchen and I realised how utterly unfounded my prejudices about the humble cranberry had been. It turns out that not only it is ridiculously simple to make – not domestically godly at all, who knew? – but that the addition of fresh cranberry sauce will utterly revolutionise the taste of any roast lunch. Hardly surprising really, when you stop to think about it. Certainly copious amounts find their way on to my plate every Christmas – and perhaps I am the exception here, though I suspect not – we eat it with turkey (obviously), with stuffing (slightly less so), and I even like a touch with my roast potatoes. And then, of course, it takes centre stage on Boxing day with the compulsory turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwich. It really is an essential Christmas ingredient. And yet, year after year, somehow – and I just don’t know how – it has been overshadowed. No more. The travesty stops here. From now on in, cranberry sauce deserves to be homemade.
Take five minutes out of your day – literally, five minutes – and follow the two-step recipe below. You will be treated like a domestic deity, when you dish it up; and those who haven’t as yet been initiated into the secrets of home-made cranberry sauce will be awed by your culinary prowess, when they taste it. Basking in this kind of admiration is particularly healthy at this time of year. If you’re cooking Christmas lunch yourself, you can make the sauce up to a week in advance and store it in the fridge. Make it today and eat it on Sunday. If like me, you are joining family and friends for Christmas lunch, even better – take a jar along with you as a contribution to the festivities. Your hosts will love you forever – if, of course, they don’t already.
I remain baffled – and abashed – as to how for so many years I could have eaten the shop bought relish, and am now trying my hardest to make amends by consuming at least double this year. It’s even good on toast! Try making your own and tell me if you’ll ever buy it ready made from a shop again…
To make your own Cranberry Sauce
- 300g fresh cranberries (available a plenty, in all good supermarkets)
- 50ml brandy
- 75ml water
- 100g sugar (but feel free to add more, if you like it sweeter)
Put the brandy, sugar and water in a small pan on the hob, on a medium heat. Dissolve the sugar and then add the cranberries. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries start to pop – this will take about 5-10 minutes and makes a rather pleasing sound. Remove from the heat and place in a serving bowl or jar. It will look quite liquid still, but don’t forget that the sauce will thicken as it cools. Store in the fridge for up to a week and bring to room temperature before serving.