Sweet and tart, with a kick of champagne and citrus – this boozy cranberry sauce is the perfect addition to any holiday meal. But don’t worry, I’ve got a no-booze version for you too!
To booze or not to booze…
Trust me, I get it. Some of you may be nervous to cook with alcohol. You may be thinking:
Is it ok to serve to kids? Will my in-laws or Baptist friends judge me? Can I skip the booze altogether and still make a killer cranberry sauce?
To which I say:
Yes. Maybe. And absolutely.
But because I want you to have all the information, here’s a couple of links for quick reference that discuss how much alcohol actually cooks out and some really fun, super complicated math for those of you that need to know the exact percentage. Enjoy:
Where the kiddos are concerned, it may (or may not) help you to know that cooking with alcohol was a regular thing in our house growing up; and I think I turned out pretty good (also up for debate). Whether it was homemade tomato sauce with wine or rum balls at Christmas, it was a very normal occurrence to have a “boozy” dish. But I never, ever saw any boozy effects from it – even with the rum balls that were unbaked (and heavy on the rum, thanks to my mom).
As far as the in-laws and Baptists are concerned, here’s what I’ve learned: I have firsthand experience with both. And neither really share my fondness for liquored-up food. But you know what? They love me just the same; and they eat my cooking. Maybe because it’s yummy, or maybe simply because they love me more than they don’t love alcohol. Either way, I’ve learned over the years that the ones who truly know me and my heart aren’t going to be the ones who judge me on my boozy bites. Even if I keep throwing around the word “boozy” an uncomfortable amount of times.
Making a not-so-boozy (shall we say “bougie” instead?) cranberry sauce is still a great option too. Just sub orange juice for the champagne, and you’re good to go. Still delicious. And acceptable for all kinds of company without the unnecessary worry. If this makes your life easier and lighter around the holidays, by all means, make this version instead!
Just don’t use the canned stuff.
Cranberry sauce, you either love it or hate it. But I’d be willing to bet that if you hate it, it may be because you’ve only ever had the canned stuff. Don’t get me wrong, that’s how I was introduced to it too.
Nearly everything was homemade when I was a kid. Pre-packaged brownie mix? No way. Jarred tomato sauce? Get out. But for some reason canned cranberry jelly-sauce always found its gloopy way to our Thanksgiving table.
Until I discovered I could make my own. And I’ve never gone back. So, listen. Just give it a chance. Even if you hate it as much as the canned stuff, at least try it. You might be surprised. And if you still hate it, I respect it. I may not understand it, but I respect it.
What you need for boozy (or bougie) cranberry sauce:
- champagne (or orange juice)
- orange zest
How to make it:
Pour the champagne (or orange juice) in a medium saucepan and add the sugar. Stir to combine over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves.
Then add the cranberries and orange zest and simmer until the cranberries have popped and the sauce thickens.
That’s it! Fifteen minutes, tops. Unless you want to simmer longer to cook out more of the alcohol. Didn’t you read those articles I shared earlier?
A few notes:
If you do decide to go the boozy route, just remember you don’t need anything fancy. Grocery store champagne is totally fine here.
Unless you’re worried about running into your Baptist friends in the checkout line. In which case, just run to the liquor store outside of town and ask them for an inexpensive dry champagne. Ten bucks will get you a perfectly satisfactory bottle, and you don’t have to feel bad for throwing the rest away if you aren’t going to drink it. But it’ll still make a decent glass if you do.
Just remember to get a dry champagne, not a sweet one. You’re already adding sugar to your sauce, and you want to be able to control that sweetness, so the dryer the better.
Our favorite ways to eat cranberry sauce:
Obviously, we eat this alongside our turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas. But we also eat it with ham – actually, this is my preference.
Our oldest son eats it all on its own, in a bowl, hot or cold, it doesn’t matter. It’s one of his love languages, and he begs for it as soon as cranberries hit the grocery store every year.
My all-time favorite way to enjoy it is on a sandwich with mayonnaise and turkey or ham. Add some white cheddar or goat cheese and you’re in business.
Share or spare the “sauce,” but be sure to share your table.
I know I’ve poked fun a bit, but it really comes from my own need for growth. Even though my Italian family cooked with, and drank, wine and always welcomed healthy conversation and respect for alcohol, not everyone understood that – and some still don’t.
I’ve sometimes felt the need to shrink away from my roots for fear of being shamed or in an effort to prove myself worthy in certain circles. And the reality is that none of those circles intentionally try to make me (or others like me) feel this way, I truly believe that. I think it’s just that the majority of my circle has a different conviction and operates as though everyone shares it; and that can sometimes isolate a person.
All that to say, I love my Baptist friends, and I know they love me. I am one of them after all. My hope is that we can all find the humor in this, laugh at ourselves, and remember that differences like this shouldn’t define or divide us.
And also that I don’t get excommunicated. Because I love our church.
So in an effort to broaden our horizons, let’s try some boozy – or bougie – cranberry sauce with some friends or family who may have a different preference of sauce than we have.
Boozy Cranberry Sauce
- ¾ c. dry champagne
- 1 c. sugar
- 12 oz. fresh cranberries
- zest from 1 orange
- In a saucepan, combine the champagne and sugar and turn on medium-low heat. Heat until the sugar is dissolved (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally.
- Once the sugar is dissolved, add the cranberries and orange zest, and stir to combine. Let simmer until the cranberries have popped and then let it cool. The sauce thickens as it cools and should almost be the consistency of a jam.
- Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold, depending on your preference. (You can also substitute orange juice for the champagne for a non-alcoholic version.)