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I can’t even tell you how much I look forward to cranberry sauce every year – both making it and eating it! Growing up, this was always my favorite holiday side dish. At some point when we were kids, my sister and I got assigned our favorite dishes to make every year so I happily made the cranberry sauce while she made the green bean casserole. And here I am today at 28 years old still continuing with cranberry sauce duty. I’d say I’m in it for the long run ;)
I’m happy to do it though! It’s incredibly simple to make and since it makes such a large batch, I reserve the rights to spoon out a decent sized serving for myself before dinner gets served. That’s trick number one with this recipe. Trick number two is freezing it.
This recipe freezes really well! (Although, I haven’t tested that with the paleo version before – more on that later.) I’ll buy the ingredients to make multiple batches at once and freeze them. I’ll serve a fresh batch at Thanksgiving then later, I can just pull out some for any holiday parties, have a batch set aside for Christmas, and another batch in case I have an emergency craving while cranberries are out of season.
You’re going to think I’m crazy but I make this large recipe in a little three cup food processor. Mine’s older and I couldn’t find the exact one online but it’s basically an older model of this little Kitchen Aid food processor. I’ve been making it in a food processor that size since day one.
There are a few reasons I’ve stuck with that size instead of upgrading to a bigger food processor with fancy blades and such. The main reason being that I like to process each ingredient separately to get the perfect texture. Pecans tend to break down into way too small of pieces and the membranes on the orange tend to stay in tact for a long time so I prefer to pulverize it. Maybe that sounds obsessive but hey, I take pride in my cranberry sauce!
Aside from that, large food processors are expensive and when I need something that large, I tend to use my Blendtec, which is more multi-purpose than a food processor anyways.
The original food processor I used was part of an Oster Kitchen Center – my mom’s Christmas gift from my dad in 1985, the same year they got married. It was actually a really cool device – it was a mixer, blender, food processor, meat grinder, and probably a few other things all using the same motor. The entire arm that held the beaters would lift off and you could replace it with whatever appliance you wanted. I somehow acquired one of my own when we bought our first home. Now, I love my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and know it has attachments too but this was different. That Kitchen Aid just doesn’t have the same nostalgia of dealing with a mushy power cord and the kitchen smelling like an electric fire every time you turn it on. But seriously, it was an awesome tool.
I could go on about kitchen toys all day but I’m losing readers as I type and I haven’t even explained why I have three versions of this cranberry sauce in the first place! Although, I think some people call this style of cranberry sauce a cranberry “relish” or “salad” or something…but I’m sticking with the title I know it as! The original recipe I believe came from my Grandma Gail although I don’t know that for a fact. Needless to say, the original version is the best but over the years, we’ve had a need for other variations as well.
I guess the first variation we had (which I’m not counting as one of the three) was a nut-free one for my sister. She wasn’t allergic to nuts – she just didn’t like them so she always got a special serving without pecans. Note that if you have a nut allergy or are preparing this for someone with one, you may need to check all the ingredients to make sure they are truly nut free and not made on shared equipment or anything.
Later on, my sister (obviously the problem child) and my mom both ended up eating vegetarian so we needed a recipe without gelatin. Luckily, that was an easy fix and we just used this vegan JEL “gelatin” instead. It’s also colored with beet powder instead of artificial colors which is why it looks pink compared to the vibrant red in the original recipe.
Then came my blog which meant I had to make a paleo version. This version (also pink) is naturally sweetened and more tart. It also gels despite all the pineapple in the recipe. I still don’t understand how that works. But you might like this version a lot if you’re like me and enjoy tart things. I’m really hoping that between all these variations, everybody will be able to enjoy my favorite side dish. Let me know if you guys have any questions about the substitutions and have a happy Thanksgiving!
- 2 C fresh cranberries
- 20 oz can of pineapple, juice reserved
- 1/2 C pecans
- 1 orange with zest*
For the traditional recipe, you’ll also need:
- 1 C sugar**
- 1 package cherry flavored gelatin
- 1 package cranberry flavored gelatin***
- 1 C hot water
For the vegan variation, you’ll also need:
- 1 C sugar**
- 2 packages JEL vegan “gelatin”
- 1 C hot water
For the paleo variation, you’ll also need:
- 1 C pure cherry juice
- 2 Tbsp gelatin, I like Great Lakes brand
- In a food processor (I prefer to process each ingredient individually, especially the orange), pulse the cranberries, pineapple (if not using already crushed pineapple), pecans, and orange. Don’t overprocess, chunky is good! However, feel free to pulverize the orange since the membrane is a little tough. Stir in the orange zest and set aside.
- If making traditional or vegan variations, combine the sugar and gelatin or JEL in a large bowl. Whisk in the hot water and continue whisking until the sugar is dissolved. Store in the pineapple juice and processed ingredients from step 1. You’ll need to work quickly if using JEL as it sets rapidly at room temperature. Transfer to the refrigerator and serve chilled.****
- If making the paleo variation, heat the cherry juice either on the stovetop in a small saucepan or in the microwave (I just use the beverage setting) in a microwave safe container. It should be hot but not boiling. Whisk in the gelatin until dissolved, then combine with the pineapple juice and processed ingredients from step 1. Transfer to the refrigerator and serve chilled.****
*The original recipe called for the peel but I prefer the zest since it’s not bitter.
**I’ve reduced this amount over the years because it’s very sweet but the original recipe calls for 1 cup.
***Or sub with another package of cherry if cranberry is too hard to find.
****Pineapple typically prevents gelatin and JEL from setting but somehow the paleo variation manages to gel up anyways. The other two variations will be thick and the gelatin/JEL is mostly used for flavor and color.
Any variation can be made nut free with the omission of the pecans but be sure to check particular brands for the remaining ingredients to verify that they are truly nut free, especially if you have a nut allergy or are preparing this for somebody who does.