Thanksgiving is, hands down, my favorite holiday when it comes to food. Pass the turkey, load up on the sweet potatoes, and give me some pie, please... I'm in heaven.
Being from Massachusetts, Thanksgiving and it's history has always been important. Growing up, making a trip to Plymouth Plantation is almost a rite of passage around here. You can stare down at Plymouth Rock (from behind the fence), or try your hand at making butter while wearing a construction paper pilgrim hat, but there is so much more to it than that... for me, it is the center of some of my most meaningful childhood memories.
As a child and young adult, I spent most of my summers living a brief walk away from the beach where the Pilgrims and the Native Americans had their first meeting (First Encounter Beach, for reference!). The marshes, the beach, and the cranberry bogs all have special meaning to me. I remember being part of a rag-tag group of cousins, spending our free time larking on the beach, and playing touch football as kids. On other occasions, a few of my friends and I would even sneak onto an Ocean Spray cranberry bog to pick water lilies. So the cape, and this holiday, hold a special place in my heart.
Cranberry sauce is one of those Thanksgiving Day side dishes that people either love or hate. I know many people favor the canned version, with it's wobbily goodness, but I really enjoy the classic, whole berry, approach. This year, however, I upped the ante.
Delicious maple syrup, orange juice, cinnamon, and cranberries are boiled down to a syrupy slightly sweet & spicy sauce. The cranberries "pop" under the heat and give this side dish a gorgeous ruby color. This dish just screams, "New England", and this Boston (but Cape Cod-loving) girl wouldn't have it any other way.
Cranberry Sauce with Maple Syrup
makes about 2 cups
12 ounces whole fresh cranberries (or 1 package)
3/4 cup real Vermont (or, even better, Canadian!) maple syrup (not the fake stuff, I beg you)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed or store bought
1 cinnamon stick
Take the cranberries and place into a large sieve. Pick out any berries that look damaged (black spots, mushy, really white). Wash and drain.
Then, pour the cranberries into a medium-large pot. Add the maple syrup, water, and orange juice. Stir to combine. Place the cinnamon stick in the center.
Heat the berries on medium-high heat, until the mixture reaches a boil. Then, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until syrupy and richly red. You will hear the cranberries "pop" as they cook, do not be alarmed.
After 10-12 minutes, remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in a covered container in the fridge.
Serve at room temperature or slightly warmed.