Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I wrote about it twice last year, when I shared the story of my dad and the pear and cranberry crisp with gingersnaps, oats and almonds, and when I wrote about feeling grateful and Dorie Greenspan’s maple-cornmeal drop biscuits. I love it for the food (obviously,) but more than that I love the traditions we’ve created around it.
We’ve hosted the meal ever since we moved into our home ten years ago. Family comes from near and far, and the best part is that for the last decade it has been low key and drama free. My parents separated when I was 14, so like many kids I had years of juggling holidays and figuring out whose house got priority which year, and there was often stress and nonsense involved. But as an adult with my own home and growing family, I chose to rewrite the terms. Instead of worrying about flying across the country at the craziest travel time of the year, I invite people to come to us. My mom always makes the trek from California, but with a catch. Most years she arrives on Thanksgiving day, when the skies are less crowded and the fares are more reasonable, which means our Thanksgiving often takes place on Friday. Thanksgiving day is for pajamas, the parade, leisurely cooking and movies on the couch, and Friday morning I normally head to Whole Foods to pick up my turkey and throw it in the oven. Black Friday shopping sounds miserable to me, so having that day together with family and friends just makes more sense. With Thursday at home to prepare, Friday just seems easier.No matter what day our Thanksgiving is on though, it’s relaxing. There are no hidden agendas, and everyone is genuinely happy to see each other and spend time together. This year we’ve got Hawaii, California, Texas, Maryland, New York and New Jersey coming, and for the first time in years we’re going to have our meal on Thursday because travel and work schedules allow. We know some favorite dishes will always be on the table, but we change things up here and there too. It’s definitely a group effort, and it produces herb roasted turkey with caramelized onion gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallows (yes, every year of my life,) a variety of vegetables, two different kinds of stuffing (which often change) and pumpkin pie. And not to be forgotten: cranberry sauce! Specifically, this Spiced Orange Cranberry Sauce I’m sharing with you today.While other cranberry sauces have auditioned over the years for a part in this meal, they’ve never stood alone at the table. This is my go-to cranberry sauce, and as my favorite it will always be present. It’s not anything fancy or complicated, but the combination of tart cranberries with bright citrus, the mild heat of ginger and cinnamon and the earthiness of freshly grated nutmeg with just enough sugar gives it the perfect balance. I love it so much, that every time I make it I wonder why I’ve waited twelve months to pull this recipe out again! But here’s the brilliant thing: if you simply make a big batch of it this Thanksgiving, you can easily freeze your leftovers. And let me tell you, it’s so easy to make, and absolutely freezer-friendly. Stored and labeled in small portions in Ziploc freezer bags, it quickly defrosts enough under warm running water to use in other recipes. A couple of weeks ago I actually pulled some out of my chest freezer from LAST Thanksgiving and added it to a turkey and black bean chili I came up with. (I’ll try to post that for you soon!) I’ve added it frozen to green smoothies in the morning, and heated it up with my standard toasted oatmeal that I make all the time. Something rescued from the freezer can make old standbys bursts with fresh flavor with very little effort. Why wouldn’t you want to have that handy?And to conserve time and energy, I made the sauce I’ll serve on Thanksgiving yesterday. A large batch yields around 9 cups, more than our party of 12 adults and 3 kids will likely eat in one sitting. I kept two cups out to enjoy this week, but I packed the rest in a large Ziploc that I stuck in the freezer. I’ll take it out Wednesday and let it thaw in the refrigerator, and it will be ready to go on Thursday after a good stir. Whatever remains will be repurposed and/or possibly frozen again. (While others might question re-freezing something, I personally think it’s perfectly respectable and ultimately practical.) But if you choose to make it this weekend, you don’t even need to bother freezing it. It will be just fine in your fridge for the better part of a week.
Spiced Orange Cranberry Sauce is an easy make-ahead dish for your holiday table that can also bring you extra flavor and sweetness in the months to come. I would love to hear if you make it, or about any of your own Thanksgiving favorites. I’m always looking for something new to add to our menu, so please leave a comment and let me know!
**Oh, and I just finished a bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with cranberry sauce, and it was heavenly. I highly recommend that too!
This Spiced Orange Cranberry Sauce is an easy make-ahead dish for your holiday table that's freezer-friendly so it can also bring you extra flavor and sweetness in the months to come. The combination of tart cranberries with bright citrus, the mild heat of ginger and cinnamon and the earthiness of freshly grated nutmeg with just enough sugar gives it the perfect balance. It's ideal as a side dish for turkey, but you can add it to a smoothie, oatmeal, chili or a bowl full of plain greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream and everyone will be happy.
- 2 lbs fresh cranberries, rinsed (907 grams-if you have the standard 12 oz bags, it is 2 and a half bags)
- 3 cups of water
- 1 large navel orange (all of the zest, and juice from 1/2 of it)
- 2.5 cups of granulated white sugar (500 grams)
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg