We both know you’re better than cranberry sauce from a can. (OK, maybe we’re wrong. The canned stuff will always have an occasional soft spot with us.) But once you’ve spent hours on brining, defrosting, and roasting that turkey, doesn’t it feel a little wrong to use a can opener to plunk a tube of crimson fruit on your Thanksgiving table?
You do you, but we couldn’t be more thrilled with our un-canned cranberry sauce recipe. It’s got the wiggle and jiggle you know and love thanks to gelatin, and there are no pesky whole berries (for those who don’t love them). Here’s how we make it look so beautiful.
Don’t let those beautiful molds intimidate you! The process is easy when you have the know-how, tools and recipes in hand. Here’s what you need:
By and large, to make your own cranberry sauce, you’re using equipment you already have. Ladle for ladling warm cranberry sauce? Check. 9″ x 13″ high-sided cake pan for unmolding these beauties? Check. Sheet pan or cookie sheet for flipping, sharp paring knife for ummolding, and a spatula for plating on cute appetizer plates? Check, check and check. The only thing you might want to pick up is a mini Bundt pan, which you’ll use again and again for little lemon cakes, individual apple cakes, and the like.
We’re definitely partial to the recipe below, but because cranberries have their own gel-like consistency when cooked, this technique would work with most recipes. (Ours includes gelatin, so it will yield a cranberry sauce quite like your grandmother’s recipe.)
The technique is simple: Take warm cranberry sauce, ladle it into greased mini Bundt molds, and put it in the fridge. (You want to do this in advance; you’ll need 7 to 9 hours, total.) To unmold, dip the Bundt pan carefully into a 9 x 11-inch cake or roasting pan full of warm water for just 30 seconds. Use your paring knife to loosen around the edges of the gelatinous sauce. Place a cookie sheet over the pan, then flip both together (as you would with tarte tatin or upsidedown cake), and carefully lift off the pan. (A few solid raps on the upturned molds with the back of a wooden spoon can help dislodge them!) Transfer the molds carefully to appetizer plates. Garnish with kumquats, edible flowers, and a lot of pride! You did it, and it’s stunning.
The Recipe: Un-Canned Cranberry Sauce
Admit it. You grew up eating cranberry sauce from a can, and you loved it. But do you really want to serve the canned stuff alongside your beautifully prepared Thanksgiving dinner? We’ve solved your dilemma with this grown-up variation on the classic: It’s made with fresh cranberries but, thanks to the use of gelatin, it jiggles just like the stuff you know and love. Here we use a Bundt cakelet pan to make three small cranberry sauces, but you can also use a single mold with about a 3-cup (24-fl.-oz./750-ml) capacity, whether that’s a bowl, a small Bundt pan or, yes, a recycled can, whether it has ridges or not.
4 cups (1 lb./500 g) fresh cranberries
1 cup (8 oz./250 g) sugar
2 orange zest strips, each about 3 inches (7.5 cm) long
2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) plus 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) cold water
4 1/2 tsp. (2 envelopes) unflavored gelatin
Lightly coat 3 wells of a Bundt cakelet pan, each with about a 1-cup (8–fl. oz./250-ml) capacity, with nonstick cooking spray. (Alternatively, coat a single mold with about a 3-cup/24–fl. oz./750-ml capacity.)
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cranberries, sugar, orange zest strips and the 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) cold water and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have burst and the liquid is bright pink, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, pour the 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) cold water into a medium bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin; do not stir. Let stand until softened, about 5 minutes, then stir to combine. Pour the cranberry mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the gelatin and stir until combined; discard the solids. Pour the cranberry mixture into the 3 prepared wells. dividing it evenly. Refrigerate for 1 hour, stirring halfway through, then continue to refrigerate without stirring until set, 6 to 8 hours.
To unmold, dip the cakelet pan in a large baking dish or bowl of warm water so the water reaches almost to the rim, taking care not to get any water in the wells. Let stand for 30 seconds, then remove the pan from the water and carefully run a small offset spatula or paring knife around the edges of the wells to loosen. Place a serving platter upside down on top of the cakelet pan, invert the platter and mold together and shake gently. If the cranberry sauce doesn’t release, return the cakelet pan to the warm water for 15 seconds, then repeat as directed above. Lift off the cakelet pan. Serves 12.