14 Ways to Get Weird With Cranberries

Photo:  A.A. Newton
Photo: A.A. Newton

For such a simple condiment, cranberry sauce is quite the lightening rod. I have never been able to serve a Thanksgiving meal without including at least two types (usually homemade and canned, with the ridges), but riffing on the standard is one of my favorite holiday pastimes. Besides the usual modifications to the original (adding orange juice, cinnamon, or citrus zest), you can get real weird with it. Here are 14 ways to jazz up a classic, from fairly normal (booze) to kinda out there (carbonation).

Add a little rum to your cranberry sauce


Adding a few glugs of rum gives the sauce a boozy kick, but it can also give it a spicy character and a bit of barrel-aged depth (provided you pick a spicy, barrel-aged rum, of course).

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Splash in some Campari

Photo:  Julia Sudnitskaya (Shutterstock)
Photo: Julia Sudnitskaya (Shutterstock)

If you have a discerning palate that appreciates the bitter things in life, Campari might be more your speed. Bonus: Its vibrant hue and notes of burnt citrus and rhubarb complement the condiment perfectly.

Ferment some cranberries in honey

Photo:  Natasha Breen (Shutterstock)
Photo: Natasha Breen (Shutterstock)

The clock is ticking, but you still have time to transform the sour little orbs into candy-like, fermented gems. You’ll also be rewarded with cranberry-infused honey, perfect for drizzling onto pancakes or into cocktails.

Make a spicy cranberry mustard

Photo:  Claire Lower
Photo: Claire Lower

This spicy mustard is a punishing and delicious blend of sweet, tangy, and sinus-obliterating that’s equally at home on a cheese plate or on a leftover turkey sandwich.

Pickle them

Photo:  HandmadePictures (Shutterstock)
Photo: HandmadePictures (Shutterstock)

Serve some sour along your sweet with these palate-cleansing pickled cranberries, and be sure to save some for blitzing into mayo and slathering on a turkey sando. (They’re also killer in a holiday martini.)

Sugar them

Photo:  A.A. Newton
Photo: A.A. Newton

Not only are these sugared bog berries visually stunning, they’re addictively delicious, like a holiday-themed Sour Patch Kid. (Please, I beg of you: Eat them with a really sharp cheddar.)

Cube and carbonate the canned stuff

Photo:  urbanbuzz (Shutterstock)
Photo: urbanbuzz (Shutterstock)

This one is for the gastronomy heads who have a whipping siphon bouncing around in their pantry. All you need is some jellied sauce, a siphon, and two carbon dioxide cartridges to turn the store-bought stuff into little effervescent jewels that dance on the tongue.

Jazz up your homemade cranberry sauce with Japanese pickled plum

Photo:  Claire Lower
Photo: Claire Lower

Umeboshi—Japanese salted and pickled plum—has a savory, briny flavor that really sings in a cran sauce. A tablespoon of the paste in a “usual” batch of cranberry sauce (made with 12 ounces of fresh berries) will give your sauce a slight briny edge—like the berries came from the ocean, rather than a freshwater bog—but two will make it pleasantly piquant.

Get juicy with some blueberries

Photo:  Claire Lower
Photo: Claire Lower

Blueberries are quite a bit sweeter than cranberries, and adding them to your sauce brings a juicier, fructose-forward vibe, endearing itself to children and the acid adverse. (It’s also really good with smoked turkey, if you are into that kind of thing.)

Make a boozy cranberry slush with two ingredients

Photo:  Claire Lower
Photo: Claire Lower

A cup of leftover homemade sauce and a cup of wine is all it takes to make this boozy little cranita. Garnish with orange zest for extra credit.

Get sauced with this cranberry cocktail

Photo:  Claire Lower
Photo: Claire Lower

If you want something a little stronger, this simple combination of store-bought cranberry sauce, fresh satsuma juice, and London dry gin packs a pretty punch.

Make a deceptively easy tarte tatin

Photo:  A.A. Newton
Photo: A.A. Newton

This dramatic dessert features whole cranberries and buttery caramel, covered with puff pastry and baked. The acid from the berries cuts through the rich caramel, and it looks stunning while doing it. I’m not saying it will upstage your sister-in-law’s pumpkin pie—actually, I am.

Make a stunning cranberry and pomegranate pavlova

Photo:  A.A. Newton
Photo: A.A. Newton

This is the dish for those of us who hate messing with pastry (me). This Swiss meringue, visually impressive as it is, is a total breeze to assemble, making dessert one thing you don’t have to stress over.

Save the leftovers for meatballs

Photo:  Tatiana Volgutova (Shutterstock)
Photo: Tatiana Volgutova (Shutterstock)

A ratio of one part mustard to two parts cranberry sauce makes a sticky, sweet, tangy, and just-pungent-enough glaze, perfect for roasted meats and meatballs. I usually go for Dijon, but feel free to swap in something spicier.

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