The season for holiday eating starts and lasts in my home well into January, since my birthday happens to fall on January 6th, just after the Christmas and New Year holiday stretch and on the day celebrated by some Christians around the globe as Three Kings Day. One of my favorite things about going grocery shopping at this time is how easy it is to find fresh cranberries. It wouldn't be the holidays in my house without cranberry sauce, which I have made every year for Thanksgiving since I was a kid.
In its fresh, not dried and sugar-coated, form, the cranberry is a controversial fruit: some love it, some hate it. I'm definitely on Team Cranberry and growing up, it was a contest each year between my mom and I to see how many bags of cranberries we could make for our sauce, which we did on Thanksgiving day. One year, we made six or seven bags worth of sauce, which we gave to family members in plastic containers along with festive tins of homemade cookies for their holiday celebrations.
And call me weird, but I like canned jelled cranberry sauce, too. I have mashed it up with some water, orange juice and fresh or frozen whole cranberries to make a "shortcut" cranberry sauce in the past, although I believe there is no substitute for homemade sauce from scratch.
I happen to think the cranberry is underrated. A lot of people don't like them because although they are round, like blueberries, they are mouth-puckeringly tart. Blueberries start off small and tart, ripening and getting sweeter as they mature. Not a cranberry, which is why I think of them as the blueberry's sassier cousin. Sadly, I guess that is why any cranberry dessert, cranberry juice, or cranberry sauce I have ever come across has been either spiked with a lot of other berry flavors, usually from raspberries, to up their sweetness (but sometimes detracting from rather than complementing the cranberries) or laden with a ton of sugar.