I’m morally opposed to bottled dressing. I find spaghetti sauce in a jar offensive. And if you bring store-bought frosted sugar cookies to my house, I will never invite you to a dinner party again. But for some reason, cranberry sauce in a can gets a pass.
A can of Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce has been a fixture on my family’s Thanksgiving dinner table for as long as I can remember. The cans are kept in the refrigerator before serving, because cranberry sauce — even the stuff in a can – should be cold. My mom usually opens the can in the kitchen, then plops the jelly into a white porcelain bowl to make it more presentable for the holiday table.
Sitting next to the turkey and mashed potatoes, the cranberry jelly shines and wobbles ever so slightly with each pass of the gravy, the stuffing and the wine across the table. Nothing else, of course, comes out of a can.
As a family, we have always prefered jellied cranberry sauce in a can. Judge us if you must.
At least for me, Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving if the cranberry sauce on the table doesn’t come with ridges. And it’s definitely not Thanksgiving if I’m not sitting at the table, carefully cutting the cranberry jelly into tiny triangles. Because the cranberry jelly-to-turkey-to-stuffing ratio is crucial to creating the perfect bite, and an overall sense of well being and balance at the table, and in the world.
Cranberry sauce also must taste like cranberries and sugar, and nothing else. I spent countless years in denial, hoping to find a homemade cranberry sauce I could bring to the dinner table. But in all my years of sampling different sauces, I realized I don’t like orange juice or zest of any kind in my cranberry sauce, and putting ginger in the cranberry sauce is a culinary abomination.
But in an effort to enjoy my jellied cranberry sauce and dodge the ridicule of my extended family and friends this year, I went looking for a homemade cranberry sauce that tastes like the stuff in the can. Of all the recipes I tried, a recipe from PickYourOwn.org came closest. After a couple tweaks, the cranberry sauce — a mixture of fresh cranberries, cranberry juice, sugar and pectin — is ready for my Thanksgiving table. It’s sweet, has a jelly-like consistency, and it tastes of nothing but pure cranberries and sugar. This dignified jellied cranberry sauce will probably make an appearance on our holiday table this year. Right next to a bowl of the canned stuff.