Cranberry Sauce with Grand Marnier and Candied Orange Peel

Cranberry sauce from scratch is so easy to make, and tastes so much better, that I have always wondered why anyone bothers with the sauce out of a can.

People do love the canned stuff though.

Shopping for Thanksgiving dinner with my boyfriend became an exercise in Abbott & Costello-esque absurdity as he kept putting a can of jellied cranberry sauce in the cart, and I kept removing it and putting it back.

“But it has rings that show you where to slice it!” he whined as I removed the can one last time.

Now, I must admit a fondness for tubular food: sausages, Boston Brown Bread, cannolis. Even the occasional Twinkie finds its way down my gullet about once a year.

But if you have ever had whole berry, home-made cranberry sauce, you know how really wonderful this condiment can be. No longer an afterthought plopped out of metal cylinder, real cranberry sauce can bring just the right hit of acid to the richness of the assembled dinner plate. Done right, it smells like the holidays: candied citrus, cloves, cinnamon. All warmth, sugar, spice, and everything nice.

The very basic recipe involves just three ingredients: cranberries, water, and sugar. It is essentially jam, which sounds intimidating to make but really isn’t.

To that, there are nearly endless variations. Feel free to play with it. No Grand Marnier? How about some rum? Or brandy? Try O.J. No orange peel? Got a lemon? Nope? No problems. Apples? Why not! Raisins? Throw in a handful for fun. Just feel your way through it. It will taste marvelous, I assure you.

And the other beauty? It can be made days before dinner, leaving you free to worry about something else. Even better, as the flavors meld together, it will be much yummier on day 3 than day 1.


12 ounces of fresh cranberries

1 cup of water

1 cup of sugar

The zest from 1 untreated, organic orange*

1/4 cup of Grand Marnier or Cointreau, plus 1 tablespoon

3-4 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick

A pinch of salt

Special equipment:

A citrus zester

How to prepare:

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine all the ingredients. Bring everything to a boil, stirring continuously to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat so that it is at a slow, constant simmer. Continue to stir so that it doesn’t burn. As the sauce comes together, you might notice some foam or scum that appears on the surface. Don’t worry about skimming it off as it will dissipate as the sauce thickens.

2. Continue to simmer and stir until the mixture begins to jell. If you are slightly unsure what this means, you can put a small plate in the fridge and periodically test the thickness of your sauce by putting a dime-sized drop on the cold plate. If you drag your finger through it and the sauce doesn’t run back into the void you have created, it has nicely jelled and you are done. This whole process can take up to ten minutes or so.

3. Pour the sauce into a container, cover, and place it in the fridge. It will become more solid as it cools. Before serving, stir in 1 tablespoon of whatever alcohol you used if you would like extra boozy sauce — and who doesn’t?


Most citrus fruits (oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons) are coated in a food-grade wax to preserve and protect the fruit. It also makes them really shiny. If you are cooking with the rind or peel of any citrus, try to look for fruit that has not be spray-treated with wax. Most fruit labeled “organic” should be untreated. How can you tell for sure?  Just scratch the surface of the fruit. If you see some clear wax on your finger nail, move on.


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