If you're cooking for the first time this Thanksgiving, or if you're intimidated by the whole menu, you may be tempted to open up a canned cranberry sauce. Don't. Cranberry sauce is by far the easiest part of the Thanksgiving spread to make yourself, and there's a big payoff in taste.
Cranberry sauce also usually tastes better the day after it's made, so you can make it ahead and have one less thing to worry about. Cranberries are high in pectin, so a quick simmer with water and sugar is all you need for a basic sauce. This recipe doesn't include the fancy fixings some people add like walnuts or coconut. I'll leave that up to you. If only the turkey would be this easy!
I did add a couple of optional flavorings; some may prefer to leave these out. If you want some spice, simmer with a cinnamon stick or a couple cardamom pods.
Basic Cranberry Sauce
makes about 2 cups
Zest of 2 oranges (optional) 1 cup water 1 cup sugar 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (12 oz. bag) 1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
In a medium to large saucepan, simmer the zest of the oranges in the water for about five minutes, then add the sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the cranberries and simmer until they pop open and became translucent, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the brandy.