There is nothing quite like homemade Christmas Cranberry Sauce made with whole spices, an apple cider reduction, chopped tart apple, fresh navel orange juice and zest, and sweetened just right with a splash of Grand Marnier® orange brandy liqueur. Cranberry Sauce on the Christmas table doesn’t get better than this!
A New Holiday Classic:
Christmas Brandied Apple and Orange Cranberry Sauce
Hello, my sweet friends! I hope this post finds you basking in gorgeous autumn days filled with plenty of sunshine and crisp air and that you are surrounded with stunning fall foliage in a wide array of warm reds, oranges and golds. Take it all in and enjoy while it lasts!
Today I am excited to share one of my favorite recipes for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays—Christmas Brandied Apple and Orange Cranberry Sauce. It is the perfect cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving! We’re talking epic.
Although this blog is a baking blog, I make the occasional exception to include recipes for extraordinary holiday dishes. In fact, these recipes are the very dishes we enjoy at our house during the fall and winter holidays and they always garner rave reviews. This recipe is no exception. My hope is that these special holiday recipes will become new family favorites and holiday traditions at your house.
Let me just say, this Cranberry Sauce is not your typical one-note rendition. The recipe is not too sweet and has rich layers of flavor—tart, sweet, citrusy and a little bit warm and spicy. In fact, this phenomenal recipe was adapted from the Apple-Orange Cranberry Sauce recipe found in my copy of the cookbook, from the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series, Thanksgiving & Christmas, by Chuck Williams (1993).
The Williams-Sonoma recipe is brilliant because it adds minimal liquid in the form of fresh squeezed orange juice. At first, I was surprised that it didn’t call for 1 full cup of juice or water as with typical recipes. Nope. Just the juice from half an orange! No wonder this sauce turns out so incredibly well. It is gorgeous, luscious and thick—just how a fabulous holiday cranberry sauce should be.
From the Williams-Sonoma website:
“Cranberry sauce has always been part of the traditional Thanksgiving menu. In the 1960s, an uncooked sauce of coarsely ground cranberries and oranges became a national favorite. But since then, the original quickly cooked cranberry sauce has regained its popularity, with many variations such as this one with apple, orange and a hint of spice.”
I couldn’t agree more. After making my Grandmother Gigi’s scrumptious Orange-Cranberry Relish for Thanksgiving during the first couple years of marriage, we quickly switched over to this divine, ruby-red and flavorful Christmas Brandied Apple and Orange Cranberry Sauce. There is just no comparison. Plus, we enjoy the leftover cranberry sauce as a condiment on grilled turkey sandwiches with melted provolone, or panini, paired with a spicy mustard. Yum!
The “Day After Thanksgiving” is a special day at our house. This is the morning when we officially kick off the Christmas holiday season and enjoy a special breakfast, to include Christmas Cranberry Buckle (recipe here) and coffee, then put up our freshly cut Christmas tree. Afterwards, we are hungry and indulge in a special lunch making those scrumptious grilled sandwiches I mentioned above from our Thanksgiving Day dinner leftovers.
The changes I made to the original Williams-Sonoma recipe elevates this splendid cranberry sauce to new heights. Back in the mid-1990s, I adapted the recipe by using whole spices (see the Notes section at bottom of recipe for this variation) instead of ground, as well as an apple cider reduction and added a splash of Grand Marnier® orange brandy liqueur. Ever since then, we have been making it each year for both Thanksgiving and Christmas!
Our special Christmas Cranberry Sauce pairs beautifully with a roasted turkey or other poultry, such as our Brandy and Tangerine-Glazed Roasted Turkey, or a heavenly baked and glazed Christmas ham, and even a perfectly browned and juicy roasted pork loin roast. Mmmmm.
To make Thanksgiving less stressful in the kitchen, I highly recommend preparing this special sauce a few days in advance. As mentioned in the Notes section at the bottom of the recipe, this cranberry sauce can be made up to three (3) days in advance. So, definitely take advantage of that and plan accordingly.
If this is your first time in the role as “head chef” to prepare the Thanksgiving Day feast for your family and/or friends, and you are new to making Homemade Cranberry Sauce, do not fear. This recipe with its fancy title may seem complicated, but it really isn’t. It is straight forward and you will do just fine. Trust us here at Wicked Good Kitchen. 🙂
My friends, do yourself a favor this holiday season and add this magnificent cranberry sauce, Christmas Brandied Apple and Orange Cranberry Sauce, to your Thanksgiving Day menu for your family feast. You will be so glad you did. Hands down, it is our very favorite. It is truly the best Cranberry Sauce ever.
Warmest wishes to you and your family for a very Merry Christmas!
Below are Pinterest-friendly sized images to pin at Pinterest!
There is nothing quite like homemade Cranberry Sauce made with whole spices, an apple cider reduction, chopped tart apple, fresh navel orange juice and zest, and sweetened just right, with a splash of Grand Marnier® orange brandy liqueur. Cranberry Sauce on the Christmas table doesn’t get better than this!
- For the Apple Cider Reduction
- ¾ cup (180 ml) fresh apple cider
- For the Cranberry Sauce
- 1 large tart apple, such as Granny Smith, Honeycrisp or McIntosh, peeled, cored and diced into ¼- to ½-inch pieces
- Juice and zest from ½ medium to large navel orange
- 3 cups (1 12-ounce/340-gram package) fresh whole cranberries, sorted, rinsed and dried
- 1¼ cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- Pinch of kosher salt, optional
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) Grand Marnier® orange brandy liqueur
- For the Optional Garnishes
- Fresh orange zest strips
- Fresh mint sprig
Prepare the Apple Cider Reduction: In a medium-sized heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, bring apple cider to a boil. Boil until reduced to ¼ cup, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
Prepare the Cranberry Sauce: To the saucepan with reduced apple cider, place the apples, orange juice and zest, cranberries, sugar, spices and, if using, salt.
Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the mixture to simmer uncovered. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, the apple pieces are tender and cranberries have burst, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat.
If using whole spices rather than ground (see Notes section for directions), carefully remove cinnamon sticks and spice sachet using a slotted or wooden spoon and discard. Immediately, stir in the Grand Marnier® orange brandy liqueur until well blended.
Carefully transfer the hot cranberry sauce to a heatproof bowl and cool to room temperature before serving, at least 1 hour.
To Serve the Cranberry Sauce: After cranberry sauce has cooled, transfer to a sauceboat with ladle to pass at the table. If desired, garnish with fresh orange zest strips and sprig of mint.
Tips:Cranberry sauce can be prepared up to three (3) days in advance. Cover and keep refrigerated. If desired, before serving, bring to room temperature and transfer to a sauceboat with ladle to pass at the table. Cranberry sauce may be served chilled or at room temperature. For Non-Alcohol and Kid-Friendly Variation: Omit the brandy. To Make Cranberry Sauce with Whole Spices: If you prefer to use whole spices versus ground, substitute the ground spices called for in the recipe with 2 cinnamon sticks, 4 whole cloves and 3 allspice berries. First, make a small sachet for the whole spices using cheesecloth and cotton string or butcher’s twine. (See directions below.) Add the cinnamon sticks to the saucepan with reduced apple cider along with the diced apple, orange juice and zest, cranberries, sugar and salt (if using) before cooking the sauce. Add spice sachet to cranberry sauce just as the sauce begins to simmer; stir. Remove after cooking per directions in the recipe. How To Make a Spice Sachet: Start with a 4-inch square piece of cut cheesecloth. Place whole cloves and allspice berries (see quantities above) in center of cheesecloth square. Gather corners and tie securely with cotton string or butcher’s twine. Recipe Adapted From: Apple-Orange Cranberry Sauce from the cookbook, Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series, Thanksgiving & Christmas, by Chuck Williams (1993).
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