You have cranberries, we have recipes: how to use Thanksgiving’s beloved berry
Cranberries were served alongside holiday meals long before white settlers immigrated to what we now call America.
Tart red berries, cooked down into a sauce to serve alongside meat, have been a British staple for centuries, and American Indians used cranberries in pemmican, the long-lasting snack made with pulverized or finely chopped dried meat.
Cranberry sauce first started appearing in diaries and letters from English settlers in the 1600s, and by the 1800s, it regularly appeared in American cookbooks.
Sweet, tangy and easy to make, cranberry sauce was a simple way to elevate any kind of meat or game, no matter how (or how well) it was cooked. It’s no wonder we continue to serve it at Thanksgiving and other holiday meals. If the turkey isn’t so great, the cranberry sauce and gravy will fix it, and if the turkey is roasted just right, the cranberry sauce adds another element of complexity to the meal.
But cranberry sauce isn’t the only way to incorporate cranberries on the Thanksgiving table. Here, we offer recipes for cranberry bars, cranberry pie, cranberry rice salad and cranberry stuffing. Even a pastry-wrapped baked brie can benefit from a few spoonfuls of stewed cranberries.
My mother-in-law makes this appetizer every year, and it is gone in a flash. Use homemade or store-bought sauce, either for an appetizer on Thanksgiving or at another holiday party this season.
— Addie Gundry
1 (8-ounce) can refrigerated crescent rolls
1 (8-ounce) round brie cheese
3 tablespoons cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
1 large egg, beaten
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and coat lightly with cooking spray. Unroll the crescent roll dough and separate the triangles. Arrange the triangles on the baking sheet in a pinwheel shape with their narrow points touching in the center. Press the points to seal.
Slice the brie in half horizontally and place the bottom half in the center of the dough, cut side up. Spread the cranberry sauce over the top, sprinkle with pecans, and place the remaining half of the brie on top, cut side down. Bring the outside corner of each crescent dough triangle up over the top of the brie, pressing the dough firmly to seal. Twist the ends into a pretty design and check to ensure that all seams are sealed around the brie. Brush with beaten egg.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve warm with hearty crackers, such as Wasa.
— From “Festive Holiday Recipes: 103 Must-Make Dishes for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve Everyone Will Love" by Addie Gundry (St. Martin’s Press, $19.99)
Red Wine Cranberry Sauce
When making homemade cranberry sauce, you can swap in wine for the water to add immediate depth and complex flavor. There's no need to fret if alcohol is a concern: Pomegranate juice makes for a fantastic substitute for the wine. Just bump the sugar up a little to compensate for the fact that the juice is particularly mouth-puckering.
Cranberry sauce is a surprisingly receptive canvas for other ingredients. Cinnamon and orange zest round everything out in this recipe, but it would not be out of line to experiment with different flavors or spices, such as star anise, nutmeg, cloves or vanilla bean. Lemon and even grapefruit zest are worth considering.
— Becky Krystal
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 cinnamon stick (optional)
12 ounces fresh cranberries (about 3 cups)
2 long strips tangerine, clementine or orange zest (optional)
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, wine and, if desired, cinnamon and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the wine has reduced slightly, about 4 minutes. Add the cranberries and, if desired, the zest. Simmer until the cranberries soften and the sauce thickens, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat; remove and discard the cinnamon and/or the zest, if using. Set aside to cool for at least several minutes and up to several hours. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 1 3/4 cup.
— Adapted by Becky Krystal from "A New Way to Cook" by Sally Schneider
Stuffing With Cranberries and Walnuts
A few small tweaks to the Pepperidge Farm formula yields a more flavorful, moister stuffing that still boasts a satisfyingly crispy top. This recipe is ripe for adaptation. Use your favorite type of nut or dried fruit, and mix in other additions, such as sausage and/or herbs as you like.
The stuffing can be assembled a day in advance, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking. The baked stuffing also can be cooled, covered and refrigerated a day or two in advance. Reheat it, covered, in a 300-degree oven until thoroughly warmed through; uncover for the last 10 minutes, just before serving.
— Becky Krystal
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the dish
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cups no-salt-added chicken broth (may substitute vegetable broth)
1 (14-ounce) package Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Classic Stuffing
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Heat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle. Butter a 2-quart ovenproof casserole or similarly sized dish.
In a 4- to 5-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring from time to time, until crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil.
Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the stuffing, cranberries, walnuts and lemon zest and gently mix until combined. Transfer to the prepared dish. Bake, uncovered, 30 to 35 minutes, until heated through and the top is crispy and browned. If you prefer a softer stuffing, cover with foil for some or all of the cooking time. Serve warm.
— Adapted by Becky Krystal from a recipe on the Pepperidge Farm package
Orange-Balsamic Glazed Butternut Squash & Brussels Sprouts
The sweet cranberries and crunchy almonds contrast with the tangy orange-balsamic glaze in this flavorful dish. It’s delicious and simple to prepare in a single baking dish. It’s also pretty enough to serve to guests. In fact, this is one of my go-to dishes for Thanksgiving each year! You can easily double or even triple this recipe if you’re feeding a crowd.
— Nicole Malik
4 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3 cups peeled and diced butternut squash (1-inch cubes)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons agave syrup
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup orange juice
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large baking dish, combine the Brussels sprouts and butternut squash. Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables. Add the salt and pepper.
Toss the vegetables to coat them in the olive oil, then place the baking dish in the oven and roast for 40 minutes.
When the vegetables are done, remove the baking dish from the oven. Add the agave syrup, balsamic vinegar and orange juice. Toss the vegetables so they are fully coated in the glaze. Return the dish to the oven and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and slightly caramelized.
Remove the baking dish from the oven again. Add additional salt, to taste. Stir in the almonds and dried cranberries just before serving. Serves 4.
— From “Weeknight One-Pot Vegan Cooking: 75 Effortless Recipes With Maximum Flavor and Minimal Cleanup” by Nicole Malik (Page Street Publishing, $21.99)
Apple Walnut Brown Rice Salad
A really delicious side dish that I will easily eat for lunch, too. If you do want to eat it hot, heat up the rice before mixing it. But I like it just warm or at room temperature as well. If you make the salad at least an hour in advance, the rice can really absorb the flavors, which only improves the dish.
— Yvette van Boven
For the dressing:
2 small cloves garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic or white wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the salad:
A few drops of fresh lemon juice
2 apples (Cortland or Braeburn), not peeled, diced
1 1/2 cups brown rice, cooked, at room temperature
Heaping 1/2 cup dried cranberries (or raisins), coarsely chopped
1 bunch fresh chives, finely chopped
3/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup toasted black sesame seeds
Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing. Drizzle lemon juice over the apples to prevent discoloration and combine them with the rice, along with the cranberries and chives. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well. Let the salad stand for a while, to allow the flavors to be absorbed.
Add the walnuts and sesame seeds at the last moment, folding them through the salad, and serve immediately. Serves 4.
— From “Home Made Christmas” by Yvette van Boven (Abrams, $35)
Fermented Honey Cranberries
Fermented cranberries are one way to enjoy cranberries outside Thanksgiving. Make sure to use unpasteurized honey.
3 cups fresh cranberries skins slightly crushed
1-inch knob ginger, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 orange, juiced
2 cups honey or enough to completely cover the cranberries
Use a fork to pierce the skins of the cranberries to release some of their juices. Place them in a quart-size Mason jar. Add ginger slices, cinnamon stick and orange juice, and stir. Add enough honey to cover the cranberries.
Screw the lid on the jar and then turn a few times to mix up the ingredients and coat the cranberries in the liquid.
Loosen the lid and then place the jar into a dark place to ferment. Every few days, tighten the lid, turn the jar a few times to mix, then re-loosen the lid. Bubbles should form in a few days. You can continue to ferment them for a few weeks up to several months. Use as a probiotic-packed condiment or sweetener.
— Adapted from a recipe on Grow, Forage, Cook
These pretty sugared cranberries can be arranged with mint leaves on top of a cake or in a Thanksgiving centerpiece.
1 (12-ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
2 cups granulated sugar
Rinse fresh or frozen cranberries with cold water in a colander. Drain well and set aside.
Make an egg white wash by whisking 1 egg white and 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl.
Pour some granulated sugar on a plate or shallow bowl. Dip cranberries one at a time in egg wash, then roll in sugar. Place coated berries on sheet of waxed paper to dry. Continue to create the desired amount of berries.
— Adapted from a recipe by Ocean Spray
Cranberry Crumble Bars
We generally only consider cranberry sauce for the Thanksgiving dinner, and then we all move on with our lives, leaving those cranberry bogs in the dust. I love cranberry sauce on my sandwiches, but these crumble bars have a cranberry punch that’s irresistible — tart, sweet and zesty from a touch of orange.
1 box yellow cake mix
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 large egg
½ cup brown sugar
2 cups quick-cooking oats
One 14-ounce can whole-berry cranberry sauce
Zest of half an orange
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, halved
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan with foil or parchment, extending the sides of the foil over the edges of the pan. Spray the foil lightly with cooking spray.
Mix the yellow cake mix, softened butter, egg and brown sugar in a medium bowl until just about combined. Stir in the oats as best as you can (it is easier to use your hands to get everything fully incorporated). Reserve 1 1/2 cups of this dry mixture.
Spread the remaining mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Use your hands to gently press the crust mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven but keep the oven on.
Fold the orange zest into the whole-berry cranberry sauce. Spread the cranberry sauce evenly over the crust carefully. Top with the halved fresh cranberries, followed by the remaining crumb mixture. Bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Makes 15 to 18 bars.
— From “Out of the Box Holiday Baking: Gingerbread Cupcakes, Peppermint Cheesecake, and More Festive Semi-Homemade Sweets" by Hayley Parker (Countryman Press, $19.99)
Cranberry Crumble Pie
Asking me which pie is my favorite is like asking me if I’d rather dance to New Order or Mariah Carey — it’s impossible to choose. But if I had to pick just one pie, it’d be this Sister Pie classic, because it lives up to my formula of what creates the ultimate pie experience: flaky, all-butter crust meets the tartest fruit in season plus a buttery, brown sugar crumble topping. It features tart Michigan cranberries in two ways: first we cook them down into a compote and then we mix in more cranberries, sugar and spice. The whole darn thing is topped with the aforementioned crumble, and we’re in (best pie) business. The first two components of this recipe — the compote and the crumble — can be made up to 4 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make the pie.
— Lisa Ludwinski
For the cranberry compote:
12 ounces cranberries, rinsed and sorted
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
For the crumble:
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, straight from the fridge
For the filling:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 ounces cranberries, rinsed and sorted
1/2 Bosc or D’Anjou pear, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
One 9-inch crust, blind baked and cooled
1 large egg, beaten
Vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)
First, make the compote: Combine the cranberries, brown sugar and orange zest and juice in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low to medium heat until the cranberries begin to burst.
Remove from the heat and set aside to cool completely (or set in the freezer for a quick chill) while you continue to work. This compote can be made up to 4 days in advance and stored in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
Next, make the crumble: In a mixing bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Place the butter in the bowl and coat on all sides with the flour mixture. Take a bench scraper and cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes directly into the flour mixture in the bowl. Work to break up the cubes with your hands until they are lightly coated with the flour mixture. Continue to use the bench scraper to cut the cubes into smaller pieces — the idea is that you are cutting each cube in half.
Switch to a pastry blender and begin to cut in the butter with one hand while turning the bowl with the other. It’s important not to aim for the same spot at the bottom of the bowl with each movement, but to actually slice through butter every time. You’ll need to clean out the pastry blender every few turns of the bowl. Once most of the butter is incorporated, use your fingers to fully break down the butter until it is no longer visible. Be careful not to overwork the mixture at this point. The crumble can be completed up to 4 days ahead and stored in the fridge.
When you’re ready to bake the pie, heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Make the filling: In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, tapioca starch and salt. Add the cranberries, pear and cooled compote and use your hands or a wooden spoon to mix completely.
Using a small offset spatula, evenly spread the cream cheese on the bottom of the pie shell. Brush the crimped edge with the beaten egg. Layer the cranberry mixture on top of cream cheese — it should be evenly spread up to the bottom of the crimps. Carefully cover the fruit with the crumble topping, leaving a small hole in the center of the pie to serve both as a steam vent for the fruit as it cooks and as an indicator of when the pie is done. Place the assembled pie on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Transfer the baking sheet with the pie on it to the oven and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until the pie juices are beginning to bubble in the center and the crumble topping is a uniformly deep golden color.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool for 4 to 6 hours. When the pie is at room temperature, slice it into 6 to 8 pieces. Serve with a big scoop of classic vanilla ice cream (technically, it’s not my favorite pie unless it’s served this way).
Store leftover pie, well wrapped in plastic wrap or under a pie dome, at room temperature for up to 2 days.
— From “Sister Pie: The Recipes and Stories of a Big-Hearted Bakery in Detroit" by Lisa Ludwinski (Lorena Jones Books, $25)