Ditch the can and make a cranberry preserve worthy of adoration

Cranberry and clementine membrillo
Cranberries blend with orange citrus and sugar into a fruit paste that raises the bar on the typical jelly.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times; prop styling by Kate Parisian)

Thanksgiving in 2020 is going to look a lot different this year in more ways than one. So instead of doing things the way they’ve always been done, here are recipes that throw tradition out the window — at least just this once — and play around with the expected holiday tropes. You’ll see that the classic dishes can be much easier — and more fun — when you focus on highlighting the qualities in each that really matter.

After almost a year of being at home and the same old, same old, reinvigorate your Thanksgiving table with a fresh outlook on the traditional holiday staples.

Cranberry sauce may seem like the most traditional stalwart of the Thanksgiving dinner table, but it’s the one I most like to experiment with. And while the jellied stuff from the can is pretty iconic — I’ve happily served it myself at Thanksgiving dinners past — it is made with high-fructose corn syrup, which is ... not great.


Instead of making a relish this year, though, I’m making a smooth fruit paste from the cranberries a la membrillo. Made with cooked quince, membrillo sets up firm and is a great complement to a cheese plate. When you make the same fruit paste with cranberries instead, the texture is shockingly similar, if a bit softer. But it works because the amount of sugar needed to make the paste balances the bitter cranberries perfectly.

You can flavor it virtually any way you want, but I find cooking it in clementine juice and stirring in some of the citrus’ zest complements the cranberries best and plays up the preserve-like sweetness. And just like any great preserve, you can schmear leftovers on toast for breakfast or layer with peanut butter for a killer PB&J for weeks after the holiday is finished.

Cranberry and Clementine Membrillo

Time50 minutes
YieldsMakes 2 cups