My grandfather used to say tomatoes overproduce so that we could save some for February (by canning, of course!) As the produce aisles in the local stores fill up with fixin’s for Thanksgiving, I hear my grandfather’s voice. Only this time, we’re talking about the bushels of cranberries, and how beautiful a jar of cranberry jam looks on the Thanksgiving table.
My sister likes jellied cranberry sauce out of the can; my mom loves her home-made chopped cranberry relish which, full of skins and fiber, is a little hard for me to digest these days. But I like the soft spread my grandfather used to make – cranberries simmered in orange juice and ginger with just enough brown sugar to be tart-sweet. Grandpa ran his cooked cranberries through a food mill after cooking to produce jam – a very different consistency than either conventional jellied cranberries or whole or chopped cranberry relishes. The taste is big and bright. No need for pectin – the cranberries bring enough pectin to the mix to produce jam. And the soft spread is much easier for me to digest.
I found this recipe in an old cookbook, and the tastes are very similar to my grandpa’s recipe. It makes three cups, which is just about enough for a big family Thanksgiving – or enough to share if you’re feeding a smaller crowd. If you want to can the jam, fill clean hot four or eight oz. jam jars and leave 1/2 inch headspace. Add lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, according to the USDA directions for water-bath canning. Or you can fill containers suitable for freezing, seal and cool, and freeze.
This jam will keep in the refrigerator for three to four weeks – or through the holidays, with plenty left to dress leftover turkey sandwiches or bake into jam filled holiday cookies.
3 cups fresh or frozen whole cranberries (about one 12 oz. bag)
1 1/2 cups orange juice (I juiced five large blood oranges; you can also include regular orange juice)
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- In a saucepan, mix together the orange juice, brown sugar and ginger. Heat the mixture, and when the sugar begins to dissolve, stir in the cranberries.
- Cook the cranberries until they pop open, stirring over medium heat to prevent scorching. Add more orange juice or water if the mixture thickens too quickly. Cook for 15-20 minutes on medium, or until the berries break down.
- Put the berries through a food grinder or food mill to create a puree and separate out the cranberry skins.
Once pureed, this makes about three cups of jam. Either process in a hot water bath according to USDA recommendations, freeze or keep in the refrigerator and use within 3-4 weeks.