Thursday, October 18, 2012

Big Batch Cranberry Sauce

It's that time of year, and I've hoarded all I can manage of local cranberries.  Last year I did well, making it to August with one last gallon of cranberries sitting lonely in the freezer.  I'm already worried this year that I won't have enough for my own basic survival needs.  I have obsessive thoughts of cranberries pouring into every fall recipe, and, no kidding, I've had recent dreams about that cranberry-simmering moment when the first berry pops in the pot.  In the fall, that little pop is as satisfying as hearing a jam jar lid seal.  That pop is precious.  I told you I'm obsessed.

If you've not tried making your own cranberry sauce, you must do so right this second.  It's fall and the cranberries are plentiful.  Don't worry about messing it up.  It'll either under-gel or over-gel if you do-- either way it'll still taste good.  Oh, and the sauce I make includes whole and chopped cranberries and gels rather solid.  Stop reading now if what you want is the jelly you can see through with no chunks.  I'm a fan of the chunks.  Please don't quote me out of context on that one.

The recipe here is for a relatively large batch of sauce.  You'll end up with about a dozen pint-sized jars.  If you decide to make a smaller batch, lessen the boiling time.  Half a batch of the recipe below should be boiled for about 15 minutes.

Here's what you'll need:

5 Lbs of whole cranberries (fresh or frozen)
10 cups of water
15 cups of sugar

Place half of your cranberries in a large stock pot with the water and turn on the heat.  While you're letting that heat up, chop the rest of your berries in a food processor.  How much you chop them is up to you.  Pour those berries into the pot.  Stir berries in with the water occasionally until it comes to a boil.  Boil, while stirring, for 6 minutes.  Add the sugar and stir it in thoroughly.  If you're like me, you'll be impatient about watching the pot until it boils, so you might as well get another batch of jam or pickles started, or make some coffee while you wait.  Still, keep an eye on the pot so nothing burns to the bottom.

Once your sauce comes to a boil, stir it regularly for about 20 - 25 minutes.  The 20-minute-mark is crucial in terms of waiting for that gelling point.  If you feel better using a thermometer, make sure it reaches 220F and stays there for a few minutes.  I also have several small plates in the fridge upon which I administer is "gelling test," which I am famously terrible at.  When I feel most confident that the sauce has created a "sheet" on the plate, rather than several "drips," I call it good and turn off the heat.  Much like jam, use a large spoon or skimmer to remove whatever foam might have appeared on the top of your sauce.  Fill hot jars with the sauce to about 1/8th inch from the top, cover them with hot lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Great for your Thanksgiving turkey or as a condiment to your turkey sandwich all year long.      

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