Homemade Cranberry Sauce

I’m fighting a case of bronchitis, as it turns out, so for the last few days I’ve had to skip running. I tried to do a long run on Friday, but had to cut it short – that’s when I knew I was actually sick. Had to stop at 5 miles and all of them sssllloooowwww.

But that’s okay, there haven’t been any food posts around here in a while so maybe we can do that while I wait to get back on the road. I have a race in 6 weeks but it is just a 12k, so as long as I get well in the next couple of days I won’t lose much fitness. Trying to not worry about it.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner now, and the new cranberry crop (grown right here in Washington state!) is in. When our family visited the Long Beach peninsula last fall (where cranberries are grown) I bought 5 pounds of cranberries. I froze them, and am finally down to my last pound or so.

I decided to put my remaining berries to good use by making and canning some cranberry sauce for thanksgiving and Christmas. Cranberry sauce is so easy to make and so much tastier and healthier when you make it yourself, I don’t know why anyone buys the canned stuff. Here’s how to do it:

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

4 – 5 cups whole cranberries (1 bag as sold in supermarkets)
1 cinnamon stick
1 satsuma or small orange, zested and juiced
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

If you want to preserve the sauce, you will also need some canning jars, or freezer containers.

The recipe makes about 4 cups, so 4 half pint jars or 2 pint jars. You can use fresh or frozen cranberries.

To Prepare

Put cranberries in a pot, and put the pot on the stove.

Add the cinnamon stick and zest plus juice of the orange.

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Add sugar and water, turn stove to medium high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

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Cranberries will begin to make squeaky noises and burst open as they cook. Continue to boil and stir occasionally until the mixture thickens – about 30 minutes.

If you plan to can your berries, put on a pot of water to boil while the cranberries are cooking, with enough water to cover your canning jars. Use this water to disinfect your jars and lids, and to can. More instructions on the canning after the next step.

Remove cranberries from heat after 30 minutes and pour into food mill, placed over a large bowl. You can skip this step if you like your cranberry sauce with whole berries. People at my house like it a little smoother, so I mill it before canning.

Cranberries before milling:

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Cranberries after milling. Love the color!

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To Preserve

While cranberries are cooking, put on a large pot of water to boil, with enough water to cover your canning jars when they are standing upright. Disinfect your empty jars and canning lids before use by placing them in the boiling water for a minute or two, laying on their sides. Remove from the water using canning tongs and place upright to dry with open end up while you finish milling the fruit. Don’t touch the insides of the jars or the underside of the lids to prevent introduction of bacteria.

After milling is complete and while sauce is still hot, pour the cranberry sauce into freezer containers, or your prepared canning jars.

If freezing, allow the sauce to cool before placing lids and putting containers in the freezer.

If canning, leave about 1/2 inch of headspace between top of sauce and the top of the jar to allow for steam expansion while canning in the water bath. This is what forces the air out of the jar and creates a good seal. Carefully place the canning lids and rings so that there is a seal that will still allow air to escape.

Place the covered jars into the boiling water. Water should cover the jars up to their “necks” but should not completely cover the jars – air has to escape and you don’t want water to get in.

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Keep the jars in the boiling water to process for 15 minutes. Listen for the Ping sound that indicates the jars have sealed. The number of pings should be equal to the number of jars. If you don’t hear the ping, pull the jars out of the water at 15 minutes anyway and set aside to cool. Listen to any unsealed jars as they cool – they may yet ping to indicate a seal. When jars are cool, test for a seal by poking the top of the jar – if there is no bubble, then you probably have a good seal.

If the jars don’t seal, you can refrigerate or freeze the sauce. They will still keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks but won’t be shelf stable.

If properly canned and sealed, the sauce should keep for up to a year unopened. After opening, the sauce will have a shelf life similar to any opened, canned jam if kept refrigerated.

Caveat – this recipe gives canning times for canning at sea level (which it is, where I live). If you live at altitude, or if you have never canned before, I highly recommend reading up here before you start. I have done my best to ensure this recipe is safe, but with any type of canning it is best to ensure you thoroughly understand what you are doing before you get started, to ensure food safety.

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Peach Cranberry Pie

This is a pie I made to get rid of some frozen fruit I had in my freezer, and I sort of made it up as I went. I didn’t decide until I tasted the finished product that I would share it here, so I didn’t take a lot of pictures.

When I was reading about how to make a peach pie, I learned that peaches (especially frozen ones) are a bit tricky – you either have to cook the water out, or add a lot thickeners such as corn starch or flour. Personally, I tend to prefer the cooking method as it also serves to concentrate the flavors. But I decided to still add some thickeners to keep it from weeping out water after cooking, which leads to a soggy crust.

I also added cranberries because I like their tartness and just to make this a little bit more of an Autumn flavor.

Anyway, it turned out stupid good, so I had to share (and also remember what I did!). Thank goodness I have two children with 0% body fat that I am always trying to fatten up to help me eat all this stuff or I would be in trouble.

And it’s good that I run for the same reason!

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Stupid Good Peach Cranberry Pie

The Crust

Make the Perfect Pie Crust from this recipe, and freeze half the recipe. Refrigerate the half you will use for at least 30 minutes prior to rolling out. You can refrigerate and roll out while the filling cooks.

Peach Cranberry Filling
2 quarts frozen peach slices
1 cup frozen or fresh cranberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon corn starch
1/4 cup cold water

Defrost the frozen peach slices in the microwave, then place in a large cooking pot. Add sugars and cinnamon and bring to a slow rolling boil. Rinse cranberries and add to the boiling peaches. Boil until mixture starts to thicken – about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

While the filling cooks, and after the crust has refrigerated for about 30 minutes (or more), roll out the pie crust and place in the pie plate. Return to refrigerator until filling is ready.

After filling cooks for about 1 hour, dissolve corn starch in 1/4 cup cold water, add to the peaches and continue boiling on low heat about 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and make the streusel topping.

Streusel Topping

3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon salt

Using a pastry cutter (or your fingers) combine the above ingredients until the butter is well distributed throughout and there is no longer a lot of dry flour in the mixture. The mixture should stick together and look sort of chunky.

Assembling and Baking

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the pie plate and crust from the refrigerator, and pour in the peach filling. Filling should fill the plate to a level about 1/4″ below the top of the plate. Don’t overfill the plate.

Sprinkle the streusel topping over the entire pie, covering all the filling, but mounded up somewhat in the middle. (It kind of flattens as it cooks).

Place the pie on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the pie crust and streusel topping are golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before eating.

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Notice the small hole on the side of the pie? Some pie tasters had to pick a little bit off the side…