Making cranberry sauce is a big family tradition. As soon as I smell oranges being zested, hear the distinctive sound of cranberries popping and the rich glug of port, I am transported straight back to childhood, watching my mum, Ellen make her legendary cranberry sauce. For me, it’s the first excitement signalling Christmas is coming.
With fresh cranberries arriving in the shops, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to make my first batch of cranberry sauce. I always make a big quantity to give out jars as pre-Christmas pressies to friends and a second big batch to be ladled in to two large Kilner Jars; one for our family Christmas Day and the other for our Boxing Day. So necessary to accompany all those left overs and to make sure there’s lots to go around at our feast gathering family and friends. We do love a house party at Treseren!
I love making jam, but I am the first to admit that it can be an exacting science with pectin levels and temperatures to worry about. Not so with cranberry sauce, it is super easy to make. Don’t worry about this recipe, it will come out perfectly every time!!!
Inspired by my mum’s original, my recipe has a few little additions and tweaks from trying and testing over the years in my kitchen. The secret ingredient (other than the port!) that my mum has always insisted makes all the difference, is soft brown sugar. All the recipes I have ever come across list caster sugar, but there is a special depth and flavour that comes from the combination of the soft brown sugar and the port – with a touch of cinnamon.
So here you go. Emma and Ellen’s festive Cranberry sauce with port and orange –
600 g fresh cranberries
Juice and zest of 1 large orange (100 ml of orange juice)
100 ml water
225 g soft brown sugar (with extra 25g standing by, see method)
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise (optional)
80 ml of port
Wash the cranberries and check through discarding any that are not 100%.
Put the cranberries in a saucepan.
Wash the orange and remove the zest.
Squeeze the juice and add along with the water, cinnamon sticks and star anise if using to the cranberries.
Add the sugar along with the zest and stir well.
Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Taste the sauce at this stage, if you find the sauce is too tart for your taste, add a little more sugar. (Personally I hate overly sweet cranberry sauce, but you can never tell how sour the cranberries are until they are cooked. So, I would add a little sugar at this point if needed. Easy to add more, but a pain if you need to start adding lemon juice etc to un-sweeten it later.)
Pop on the lid and simmer for 10-15 minutes, listen for the popping sound. Some of the cranberries will cook quicker than others, so stir the sauce gently every five minutes, giving a soft push down with the spoon to release the pectin, until all the cranberries are soft and splitting and the sauce thickens.
When the sauce is nearly ready, stir in the port. Cook gently for one more minute.
Remove from the heat, remove cinnamon and star anise, then ladle into warm, dry, sterilised jars and seal.
I like to write home-made labels and use lots of raffia to wrap the jars as presents. I promise you it’s easy to make and is such a special gift for friends to enjoy at their Christmas Day celebration … and so much tastier than the shop bought alternatives!