My favorite holiday dinner (and/or dessert) food: cranberry sauce. Hands down. When given the choice between Christmas cookies and a spoonful of cranberry sauce for dessert, the cranberry sauce always wins out. Now a spoonful of Nutella vs. my beloved cranberry sauce makes for a much tougher choice, but we’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it…
Somehow over the last 3-4 years my in-laws have designated me the cranberry sauce chief. (GO NOLES?) Probably, because year after year this cranberry sauce knocks our socks off. It is laced with a little bit of citrus and the vanilla bean adds that je ne sais quoi, balancing the bright orange notes perfectly. Although I’m easily pleased in the cranberry sauce department, this recipe has held strong as a family/ friend favorite year after year, and every year it takes all my will power to not eat it all standing right over the pot! Last year I made double and froze the leftovers, and this year I defrosted it the night before Thanksgiving on a gamble. I was fully expecting it to be terrible texture and taste-wise, but the bright orange-y notes and warm vanilla swirl were in FULL force, and it tasted just like it was fresh off the stove! Not that I am advocating that you leave this in the freezer for quite as long as I did… (Do as I say, not as I do). In light of this last minute success, I insisted on snapping a few photos just before the gang sat down to eat Thanksgiving lunch—in bratty food blogger style. You know, just in case. The lighting isn’t perfect, but the taste is on point. Once the bowl was licked clean, I knew that bad photos were a poor excuse not to share!
Although sometimes during the holiday cooking frenzy opening a can of cranberry sauce is just about all we can muster, I challenge you to try something new this year! Even the most elaborate versions of homemade cranberry sauce require very few ingredients, often have less sugar, and are incredibly easy to make. Not to mention, this recipe will make your house smell HEAVENLY. But don’t just take my word for it, try this citrus and vanilla laced homemade cranberry sauce today!
- 2 (12 oz.) bags fresh cranberries
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon (pinch of) salt
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
- Scrapings from ½ vanilla bean*
- Zest and juice the oranges. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the water, juice, granulated sugar, brown sugar and salt. Stir continuously until sugars have dissolved. Add the cranberries and stir until cranberries begin to pop.** Cook cranberry mixture, for about 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the sauce has thickened and the cranberries have cooked down, remove from heat and add orange zest and vanilla bean. Stir to incorporate. Cool to room temperature then store in the fridge until ready to eat (or for about three days).
- *The vanilla bean is optional, but oh so worth the splurge!
- **If you aren't sure if the cranberries are popping yet, then they probably aren't. It's quite loud and you'll know it when it happens! Just keep stirring patiently.