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    Copyright 2008-2015Slow Food Fast. All writing and images on this blog unless otherwise attributed or set in quotes are the sole property of Slow Food Fast. Please contact DebbieN via the comments form for permissions before reprinting or reproducing any of the material on this blog.

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Cranberry Sauce Without the Fuss

Cranberry sauce in the microwaveI love homemade cranberry sauce, and not just at Thanksgiving. It makes a pretty good jam for breakfast and (should the need arise) a pretty good tisane for a congested sore throat if you heat a dollop in a mug of water and sip it hot, berries and all. Despite the fact that it’s tart, which you’d think would make your throat hurt more, the cranberries actually contain something soothing that will give you at least temporary relief when you’re in the throes of Los Angelitis and the Tylenol hasn’t kicked in yet (you can trust my expertise on this one, unfortunately). But hopefully you won’t need it for anything medicinal this winter and can just enjoy fresh-made cranberry sauce for its own sake.

A lot of people are convinced that just opening a can is the easiest and least scary way to go. They must have read the package directions and decided it was too much work to make the syrup first (very intimidating-sounding) or that adding the berries and letting them pop was likely to spatter the stove until it looks like a magenta Dalmatian.

But really, you can just microwave cranberry sauce and it works fine. Throw all the ingredients (berries, sugar, water) into a 3-cup pyrex bowl, slap a lid on partway, and nuke it for 5 minutes. That’s it. No preboiling. Don’t even bother mixing it. In five minutes, you’ve got standard fresh-made cranberry sauce in a bowl that can go straight to the fridge once it’s cool. And no saucepan or stove top to wash before your guests arrive.

You can dress it up with some orange peel or juice, or a pinch of clove and cinnamon. You could add a chopped, peeled granny smith apple or a well-scrubbed chopped organic seedless orange with the peel to the berries for cooking, or else stir in a spoonful of Cointreau or Triple Sec after the jam cools, and you’d have something a little more sophisticated, but the basic recipe is worth having as a first run.

And most helpfully, if you’re looking for something less sugared, you can cut the typical cup of sugar per 12-oz bag of cranberries in half and it’ll still gel decently. Or you can do it with no sugar at all, let all the berries pop and thicken up just in water, and sweeten it with your preferred artifice after it’s cooled. It won’t be completely carb-free per tablespoon or so even with no added sugar, but it’ll be pretty low.

Approximate carb counts (total and per tablespoon, counting 1 T as ~1/16th c.):

Cranberry-only version without apple or orange

  • With 1 cup of sugar: 242 g carb per 2.5-3 c. cranberry sauce  or 5-6 g/T.
  • With 1/2 c. sugar: 142 g carb/recipe or ~3 g/T.
  • Artificially sweetened only: 42 g carb/recipe or ~1 g/T.

Cranberry sauce with apple or orange

With a good-sized apple or orange chopped in, figure 25 extra grams of carb per recipe or 0.5 gram extra carb per tablespoon.

Any way you go with it, though, homemade cranberry sauce has a good deal less carb per spoonful than other kinds of commercial jams, and probably a good deal less than the stuff in a can. It’s a lot better tasting too.

Microwave Cranberry Sauce

  • 12-oz package fresh cranberries, washed well
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 c. sugar (standard Thanksgiving back-of-package recipe), 1/2 c. sugar (my version this week, which was plenty sweet enough for me), OR no sugar during cooking but artificial sweetener added afterward to taste

optional additions: chopped peeled apple, finely chopped whole scrubbed organic orange, pinch or so of powdered cloves and/or cinnamon, a little grated orange or lemon peel, or a spoonful of orange liqueur or brandy

Put the cranberries, sugar if using, water, and apple or orange if using in a 3-cup pyrex bowl, cover loosely with a microwaveable lid so steam can escape but it won’t spatter, and microwave on HIGH 5 minutes. (If you’ve added an apple or orange, you might need an extra minute to account for the extra fruit.) Keep an eye on it toward the end, but it probably won’t boil over.

The mixture should already be thickening to a sauce/jam consistency (it’ll thicken more as it cools), and most of the berries should be popped. Stir well and microwave a minute or so more with a vented lid if you want it thicker. Let cool to room temperature and, if using artificial sweetener, sweeten to taste. Other flavorings–you could add grated lemon or orange peel (sparingly) or clove or cinnamon before cooking, but save any alcohol-based flavorings for after the jam has cooked so they don’t just evaporate in the microwave.

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