Ever since I was a kid, cranberry sauce has always been one of my favorite things about the fall.
Most of the time, my mom made homemade cranberry sauce. Now, she’s an amazing cook. Sometimes, though, if I was lucky and she didn’t have time, she’d bust out that ubiquitous canned cranberry sauce log. (Come on, that stuff is super cool because you can slice it.)
To a child who grew up in an all-homemade kitchen, the canned cranberry sauce was kind of like spotting a unicorn—or an Oreo cookie. It never failed to delight me. But then, neither did her homemade sauce. I loved them both.
Now that I’m a wee bit older, I have a great appreciation for all her hard work in the kitchen. And as it turns out, sometimes the yummiest things aren’t really hard at all.
This cranberry sauce is thick and bursting with jammy goodness. The mellow sweetness of the brown sugar balances out the tartness of the berries. A smidge of black pepper gives it the tiniest little bite.
This sauce is quick and easy to make. It’s rustic, with seeds and skins and all. If you’re looking for a smooth sauce, this probably isn’t the recipe for you.
Serve it warm or cold as a side with a traditional roast bird. Slather it on a bulkie roll with a little mustard and some cold, leftover roast chicken for morning-after-the-feast sandwich. Spread it on toast or spoon it warm over a few scoops of creamy vanilla ice cream.
Honestly? I’m tempted to sit down with a big spoon and eat the whole bowl for dinner.
A note on ingredients
You can use frozen cranberries just as easily as fresh.
Brown-Sugar Cranberry Sauce
1 cup water
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 12-oz. bag of cranberries
1/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
pinch of kosher salt
1 Tbls. fresh thyme leaves + a little more for garnish
Make a brown sugar syrup
Combine the water and the brown sugar in a medium-sized saucepan.
Set on the stove over high heat. Whisk to combine. Bring it up to a boil, whisking occasionally.
Add the cranberries
Pick through your berries and discard any that are obviously bruised or otherwise unhappy.
I use my berries straight from the freezer. There’s no need to thaw them ahead of time.
Add the berries to the brown sugar in the pot. Toss in the black pepper and the pinch of salt.
Give them a stir to mix. Cover and turn the heat down to medium-low.
You want them to simmer and start to pop while they’re covered. Let them cook for about 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Uncover the pot. Stir the berries around. With the back of your spoon, smoosh the berries against the side of the pot to pop them. Do this until most of the berries have popped. (It won’t take long.) As the berries pop, the sauce will begin to get much thicker.
Add the thyme and stir to combine.
Cook uncovered over medium-low heat for another 3-5 minutes, until the mixture is quite thick.
When it’s done, it should stick to a wooden spoon and look about like this:
Garnish with a little fresh thyme.
Serve and enjoy! Keeps 3-4 days in the fridge.