perfect cranberry sauce

cranberry-sauce-cat-edited-weblemon-zest-cranberryI know what you’re thinking: where, oh where, on Earth have you been?  Well, I’ve still been on Earth* (*kind of) and it’s taken me in places that have been a bit outside of the kitchen recently, since I’ve been updating the kitchen with new equipment including appliances and a water filter we got from a A complete guide to water filters online. I’ve still been cooking, of course, but it’s been in a more direct sense: teaching cooking classes, sharing food with friends and family (which was the original point of it, no?) and developing recipes for different brands and clients.  That coupled with my new band, Jane Machine, has simply taken over the time I have to give you a proper taste of my current culinary life like I had before.

But hey, I’ve had this site since 2009 and it did take a few hiatuses before, so I guess it’ll always be a part of me in one way or the other.

It wasn’t until my cousin Kelly asked me what the cranberry sauce recipe I had made for last year’s Thanksgiving that I realized something: I really should share a recipe again. Because, if I’m photographing it for her and writing it all down, I imagine you would all want it, too.


It’s not surprising to me that this was the recipe she wanted, as it’s really hard to come by a superb store-bought cranberry sauce.  Cranberries are quite a fickle fruit.  They are so bitter naturally, and can have such a starchy consistency (to me at least) when wrongly prepared.  What’s more, if you’re like me and your sweet tooth is still existent but on another set of standards than it was, oh, 10 years ago, everything pre-prepared seems blinded by sugar now.

What I love about this recipe is a few things: (1) it’s not too sugar-laden yet does not make you wanna pucker up as the cranberries are properly cooked (2) it has a luscious blend of flavors that perfectly either bring out or complement the acidity through the lemon zest, cinnamon, and black pepper and (3) it has booze in it which really just makes it far more delectable when mixing with turkey or whatever other protein/savory item you consume on the day of Thanks.


Cousin Kelly, this is for you, and readers, let’s thank Cousin Kelly for making this also for you, too. I really hope to share more frequently recipes with you in the upcoming months! Enjoy this beautiful time of the year, and I hope you bask in gratitude this coming Thursday even if it’s just by yourself. <3

perfect cranberry sauce

Serves 12-15
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 2 hours
Total time 2 hours, 15 minutes
Dietary Corn Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Lactose Free, Nut Free, Soy Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Meal type Condiment, Side Dish
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Gourmet, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold, Serve Hot


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bags fresh cranberries (24 ounces total)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Zest 1/2 small/medium lemon
  • 3 tablespoons agave nectar (for more bitter, less sweet, use 1-2 tbs.; for more sweet, use 4)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon grappa, brandy, cognac or vodka (it gets rather cooked in, so use whichever you fancy!)
  • 1 cup water


Step 1 In large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat until just warm but not smoking. Add cranberries (that you have washed and strained) into the oil and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. sea salt.
Step 2 Add lemon zest and spices and stir, raising the heat to medium-high. Stir occasionally and cook for another 4 minutes, you'll notice that the cranberries are going to start to pop and caramelization will occur on the bottom. After 4 minutes immediately stir in the agave nectar and grappa, stir a few times, let cook 2 minutes. Then add water, reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer 2 hours.
Step 3 Serve hot or cold. I recommend making this a day or two in advance as (a) you can and (b) it even tastes better after it's gellified a bit.

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