Naturally sweetened cranberry sauce is my healthier take on a simple to make classic cranberry sauce. This can easily be made with honey or maple syrup for a naturally sweetened condiment to be enjoyed anytime.
Almost everyone associates cranberry sauce with turkey dinner at Thanksgiving and Christmas and little else more. I remember being a guest at someone’s home one time where they had a saucer with deep red jelly, still in the shape of the can from which it was extracted and with the ribbed can lines still imprinted. I couldn’t imagine eating that stuff. While I never ate cranberry sauce with Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, I enjoyed watching my mom make her own cranberry sauce with a bag of cranberries, a cup of water and a cup of white sugar. I loved the popping sounds of the berries when they expanded in the heat. I continued her tradition in my own home every Thanksgiving for many years until I started thinking about the inflammatory effects of white sugar. Now I make Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Sauce, and really believe the taste is so much better.
Cranberries are one of the few fruits that were part of traditional plant foods of Canadian Indigenous people. They were used as both food and medicine by indigenous people. They have been farmed now for over 200 years. Only 5% of cranberries are sold fresh. The other 95% are dried, frozen or processed for sauce or juice.
Cranberries are grown on long vines in soft, marshy, acidic soil. The blogs are flooded for harvesting so the berries will float, making them easier to harvest.
Health benefits of cranberries
Cranberries are high in a number of phytonutrients, including anthocyanins, that help reduce the risk of oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Anthocyanins are what give cranberries the red color. They also contain vitamin C and E, which provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Antioxidants help prevent highly reactive free radicals from causing damage our body’s cells and tissues that can lead to premature aging, illness and disease, including cancer. One study showed that consumption of cranberries can suppress H. pylori infection.
The most common use for cranberry sauce is of course as a condiment for fall and winter holiday dinners. But there are so many other ways to use cranberry sauce any time of the year.
Uses for cranberry sauce
- on pancakes or waffles
- added to yogurt
- in a smoothie
- in muffins
- in oatmeal squares. Try my Cranberry Oat Squares
- as an accompaniment on a crackers and cheese board
- use is as jam on toast, crackers or muffins
- serve with roasted pumpkin or sweet potatoes and toasted pecans
Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Sauce
- 4 cups fresh cranberries
- ½ cup honey
- ½ cup water
- ⅓ cup orange juice
- zest from one orange
- Rinse cranberries and remove any stems or bruised berries.
- Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until most of the cranberries have popped, about 10 minutes.
- Let cool to room temperature. The cranberry sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
• omit the orange juice and zest. Add extra water if needed.
• Use maple syrup instead of honey.
• Turn your cranberry sauce into a chutney by adding ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, ½ cup each of raisins, grated apple and chopped onion, a pinch of sea salt and some warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves and allspice.
• To make a pourable sauce add 2-4 tablespoons of water to the cranberry sauce and blend in a blender or with an immersion blender. Add a bit more maple syrup for a sweet pancake syrup.