My Family's Resident Canned-Cranberry-Sauce Enthusiast Called Ina Garten's Make-Ahead Version "Breathtaking"

Dramatic, but true.

Old habits die hard when it comes to the battle between cranberry sauces. The canned fans are an energetic crowd. Most of them will not waver in their belief that the jellied discs are the only cranberry dish worth serving. All the better if, when plated, it still resembles the can it came from.

But that's not to say there aren't a few who are a bit more open-minded, willing to place a spoonful of the fresh, made-from-scratch variety right alongside a hearty serving of the canned version—hey, we get it. It's because of these tolerant few that I decided to give Ina Garten's Make-Ahead Cranberry Sauce a trial run this past weekend.

We're a family that serves both canned and fresh cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving. We've been using the same cranberry sauce recipe for over a decade now, with only slight modifications depending on who's been tasked with bringing it.

I thought it was highly unlikely that our go-to sauce recipe would be dethroned, but dethroned it was in the span of a single spoonful, and by perhaps the most enthusiastic of our family's canned cranberry sauce fans. It took him a couple seconds to recover as he handed the spoon back to me.

Immediately I started searching for ways to improve the recipe. Too tart? Too sweet? Maybe simmering with a cinnamon stick? No, no, and no. He regained his composure and explained it was simply so good that it took his breath away.

I'm not sure I've ever heard of food being described in this manner but there was a football game on, so we were already dealing with a heightened sense of emotion. I soon realized after trying a spoonful myself, the high praise, although dramatic, was warranted.

Ina Garten Toasting
Getty/NBC / Contributor

It made it onto our Thanksgiving menu right then and there, kicking our once tried-and-true recipe to the curb. What sets Ina's recipe apart from the others I've tried is the vibrant, sweet citrus flavor that gets an even brighter note thanks to the addition of lemon juice and zest. I've tried quite a few cranberry sauce recipes that call on orange juice, zest, or peel, but never one that included lemon also. It's a game changer.

The only place where I veered slightly was in simmering the mixture a few minutes longer than the recipe calls for. Instead of setting a timer, I waited for the cranberry sauce to become fragrant before removing it from the heat. Of course, I went ahead and made Ina's Perfect Roast Chicken to go along with our giant bowl of pre-Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce.

Most homemade cranberry sauces can last two weeks in the fridge, putting this batch's expiration date just a few days before Turkey Day. That means I'll be whipping it up again come November 24. Until then, it'll be Ina's Make-Ahead Cranberry Sauce on sandwiches, served alongside roast chicken, and maybe even a little spoonful snuck in here and there when the craving strikes. Trust me, no one in this house is complaining.

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