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Thanksgiving: The Great Cranberry Sauce Debate


I found a way to reconcile the homemade v. canned Cranberry Sauce debate. Serve BOTH.

I found a way to reconcile the homemade v. canned Cranberry Sauce debate. Serve BOTH.

Thanksgiving is a very traditional time for my family. They look forward to the straightforward turkey dinner with all the trimmings – gravy, stuffing, mashed and sweet potatoes, and so on. It’s such a treat, probably because Thanksgiving is the only time any of us have this meal.

For the past few years, I have had the pleasure of hosting upwards of 20 people at my Thanksgiving table. It’s a fun day. I get to cook my heart out watching the annual Macy’s parade on TV (We actually went a couple times when the kids were small), and after dinner we go for walks and play cards.

Every year I like to try out a new recipe for Thanksgiving, just for fun, to see how it goes.

Past hits have included Cranberry Fritters, Pull Apart Rolls, Pineapple Brine for the Turkey, and Pepperoni Cheese Bread. The Pepperoni Cheese Bread has now become a regular item, my nephew Brian’s favorite thing.

Homemade Cranberry Applesauce

Homemade Cranberry Applesauce

Last year I decide to try out a soup and made Fresh Pumpkin Ginger Bisque With Cranberry Compote. That was a miss. For the life of me I couldn’t get the bisque to taste flavorful, it was bland. Plus, people didn’t really want soup as a starter, they wanted to dive into the good stuff. So be it, done!

But my worst mistake was Cranberry Applesauce. One year, I decided to completely omit the canned Ocean Spray stuff in favor of colorful, fresh, homemade sauce. It tastes so good, tart cranberries balanced with ripe apples.

Little did I expect World War III, with my husband leading the brigade.

“Where is the cranberry sauce,” he asked in a sincere way, while everyone was passing around the platters of food.

“Right here,” I said, handing him a bowl of my ruby-red sauce.

“No, not THISSSS. The Cranberry Sauce,” he said a bit indignantly.

“This is it. It’s homemade. Cranberry Applesauce. It’s really good,” I smiled.

“No, THAT’S not Cranberry Sauce,” he snorted, smoke coming out his ears and nose. “THAT’S NOT CRANBERRY SAUCE.”

Ocean“Oh, we aren’t having Cranberry Sauce this year?” said my father-in-law quietly.

“YES, we are having it. It’s just that it’s homemade, not from the can. IT’S REALLY GOOD.” I offered him a spoonful, which he waved off.

Then, muttering. Everyone around the table was muttering to each other. I have no idea what they were saying but I could guess.

“Mom,” said my daughter with a botox-like fake smile. “Maybe you have a can of Cranberry Sauce in the pantry?”

“Maybe, but I have this REALLY Good Cranberry Sauce right here, it has fresh cranberries and apples…”

Empty silence. Blank uncomfortable stares. Then more muttering.

I went into the pantry, grabbed an old can of Ocean Spray from last year. Opened it up, plunked it on a plate, and shoved it under my husband’s nose.

“There, okay, are you happy???”

And yeah, everyone was happy. They laughed, they smiled, went back to playful bantering. Thanksgiving was saved.

And that year no one, NO ONE, except me, ate any of my homemade Cranberry Applesauce. It sat there untouched.

Fast forward. I have made Cranberry Applesauce every year since then. I put it at one end of the table, and the canned stuff at the other end. No words are said. And it all disappears.

My 2013 Thanksgiving Menu
(I still need a new dish for the menu. When I go shopping today, I’ll have to think of something.)

Champagne toast
Pineapple Brined Roast Turkey
Sausage and Apple Dressing (not stuffing in the bird, made in the crockpot with turkey wings on top)
Turkey Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Lemon Pepper String Beans
Not Your Mama’s Boiled Carrots (My original recipe, carrots sauteed in their own juices)
Shoepeg Corn
Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce
Homemade Cranberry Applesauce
Pumpkin and Cranberry Breads (also part of dessert offerings)
Pepperoni-Cheese Bread
Snowflake Rolls
Kerry Irish Butter
Ginger-Spiced Sparkling Cider
Spanish Rioja Wine
Dry Riesling White Wine
Apple, Pumpkin, Chocolate Cream Pies a la mode
Chocolate Brownie Cookies

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