Note: I apologize for the lack of photographs in this post. They’ll appear sooner or later! I kept forgetting to take pictures, what with all the holiday madness running rampant. I hate it when cookbooks don’t have pictures of food, but trust me, it’s worth trying this even without any photographs to look at!
Cranberries are divisive, don’t you think? People rarely have a “meh” attitude toward them; it’s either love or hate in cranberry town. I always liked cranberry juice, and could even stomach a slice or two of canned cranberry sauce. (Gosh, that’s just so wrong! Anything with ‘sauce’ in the title should not slice, period. Correct me if I’m wrong in the comments.) So I was firmly on “Team Cranberry.”
I’m now Team Cranberry’s head cheerleader, or quarterback, or whatever sports metaphor means leading a group of people toward a goal pursued with fiery passion. For I have, rather late in life relatively speaking, discovered homemade cranberry sauce. And not just any sauce; Gordon Ramsay’s cranberry sauce, as cooked on his Christmas special (published on YouTube in December of 2012). I’m sure that his personal life is… interesting, to say the least, given the multiple accusations of extramarital affairs and the highly publicised split with his father-in-law that dog him to this day. A friend of the family has even stated publicly that at this point, Gordon’s marriage works best when he and his wife, Tana, see one another only rarely. I think all the juicy gossip about him makes him all the more interesting. But the most interesting thing about him is that he makes cooking look effortless, and he has inspired my husband and me to push our limits in the kitchen.
I digress; this post is about his fabulous cranberry sauce, not about his salacious personal life. Gordon adds star anise, cardamom, and black pepper as seasonings to this sauce, and this would definitely give the sauce a far-eastern flair. I actually hate star anise and hold lukewarm feelings, at best, toward cardamom, so I left those ingredients out but kept the black pepper and added cinnamon sticks (removed after the cooking process is complete) to impart a subtle but notable cinnamon flavour. As Gordon’s cranberry sauce contains diced Braeburn apples, the cinnamon works to marry the apple and cranberry flavours together. Although I’m not sure they really needed cinnamon as their relationship counselor; they work together marvellously well as it is. I suppose one can never have too much harmony, eh? 😉 The black pepper sounds weird but works beautifully; you cannot taste black pepper per se, but the sauce develops the faintest hint of a spicy kick with this addition. Fresh orange juice and orange zest elevate this dish to something I would expect at a high-end restaurant; a garnish with duck breast, perhaps, or with savory chicken. It truly is amazing.
I have adapted the recipe even beyond the changes described above. Gordon caramelizes sugar before adding the cranberries, but I found, through trial and error, that it is far too easy to burn the bottom layer of sugar before the top layer even starts to caramelize, so I combine the cranberries and sugar and then cook them together. The moisture from the cranberries helps keep the sugar from caramelizing unevenly, and is handy at preventing the sugar from burning. Gordon uses ruby port to deglaze the pan, but as I did not have any on hand at the time, I used a blend of pomegranate juice and sweet Riesling (specifically, Pacific Rim 2016). You can use any liquid you wish to deglaze the pan: Good options for this recipe include the aforementioned pomegranate juice, Riesling or white wine, apple juice, cranberry juice, red wine, even water. To boost the complexity of flavours, I threw in a teaspoon of vanilla extract, which added a lovely warmth of flavour. I added a cornstarch slurry at the end of cooking to ensure the sauce would set up nice and thick.
This sauce keeps for up to a week in the refrigerator. The flavours meld and become even more complex the longer it sits. Serve at room temperature.
Gordon Ramsay’s Cranberry-Apple Sauce
Yield: About 4 cups
1 3/4 c. white sugar
350 g. fresh cranberries
4 cinnamon sticks
pinch or 2 of ground ginger
generous pinch of Kosher salt
3 Braeburn or similar apples, peeled and diced
approx. 140 mL (there is some leeway here; you can add a tad more or less liquid as you see fit) of deglazing liquid
1 orange (zest + a gentle squeezing of the juice)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 TBS. cornstarch, mixed with the orange juice you didn’t add to the pot + a bit of the deglazing liquid (I used some of the Riesling along with the orange juice)
generous pinch of black pepper
Combine sugar, cranberries, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar is dissolved; cranberries will start to soften at this point. Add apples and cook, stirring frequently, until apples have softened somewhat, about 5 – 10 minutes. Add deglazing liquid, orange zest, and approximately half of the orange’s juice, reserving the other half for the cornstarch slurry; add vanilla extract. Simmer until apples are at desired softness. This takes between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on how soft you want the apples to be. Ten minutes will leave a slight crunch in the apples; 20 minutes will leave the apples about as soft as the cranberries. I prefer softer apples.
In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with the remaining orange juice and some of the deglazing liquid. Add slurry to cranberry sauce and cook, stirring often, until mixture thickens noticeably, about 3 – 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in black pepper. Allow to cool completely at room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 week.
Source: Adapted from Gordon Ramsay (see this YouTube video, starting at 7:50)