a “not just for turkey” cranberry sauce

Growing up, cranberry sauce was that gelatinous blob that came out of a can. And I never liked it. Then came, Good Eats. The beloved show with Alton Brown showing not just the “how”, but the “why” behind so many of his recipes. It was from him I learned about spatchcocking, making marshmallows and so much more. For a number of Thanksgivings I have made his Tart Cranberry Dipping Sauce, but I think I have a new fave, and I think it’s one I’ll be making on a regular basis.

This sauce is based on the Drunken Cranberry Sauce recipe I found over at AmazingRibs.com – they seem to have some great resources in general. The original recipe calls for port wine. I’m not a wine person, so I was going to go with juice. I imagine just about any juice would work, I did a cranberry grape juice. I would like to try a nice apple cider for this as well. I also had an open can of a hard berry cider, just over a cup worth, so I actually used that and topped off with the juice.

Dried cranberries now come infused with other flavors, so watch what you’re buying. I’m sure the cherry flavored ones would be good, but try to get just regular ones to try out first. While the original recipe says to use just any inexpensive balsamic vinegar (which often are not true balsamic), I didn’t have any. I’m sure it would be fine, but use what you have. If you don’t have any, maybe try cider vinegar. I’d be interested in trying this with malt vinegar as well.

The thyme is something I was wary of at first. And I only had dried thyme leaves, and likely would have been fine to add as they were, but I think they would make for a distracting texture. So, I ended up grinding them up to stir in. If your sauce reduces to a thickness you like, you can just stir in the orange juice. I wanted a thicker sauce so I mixed up a corn starch slurry and stirred that in. You’ll need to bring up the temp to get the corn starch to thicken, then take it off the heat before adding the butter, pepper and zest.

This sauce was great with the pork I made the same evening. I was making a pasta dish the next night that used a can of diced tomatoes, and instead of adding tomato sauce I added about 1-1/2 cups of the cranberry sauce, and it was really good.

pasta with cranberry-tomato sauce

I have a little bit of that first batch left, and I think it will be going in some oatmeal. Then of course, I’ll be making another batch to go with our Thanksgiving dinner, but seriously, I’m already thinking of even more ways to use this that have nothing to do with turkey. If you try it out yourself, let me know how it goes in the comments.

“not just for turkey” cranberry sauce

Recipe by mcnee


  • 2 cups cranberry-grape or cran-apple juice

  • 1/2 cup inexpensive balsamic vinegar

  • 8 ounces dried cranberries

  • 2 tablespoon minced onion or shallot

  • 1/2 tsp ground thyme

  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper (optional)

  • Zest and juice of one medium orange

  • 1 Tbsp corn starch


  • Cook. In a saucepan stir together the port, balsamic vinegar, cranberries, shallot or onion, and thyme.
  • Simmer about 45 min, uncovered, the liquid should reduce some.
  • While simmering, zest the orange and set aside.
  • Juice the orange and mix in the corn starch, when done simmering, stir into cranberry mixture. Increase heat to bring to a boil and thicken the liquid, then remove from heat.
  • Stir in butter, pepper (use black pepper if you don’t have white) and orange zest. Serve warm.

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