My husband unequivocally loves cranberries in all forms. So a few years ago when we discovered how easy it is to make whole-berry cranberry sauce, he immediately declared cranberry sauce to be his domain for all holiday meals. We started with the recipe from the back of the package (1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 12 oz. of fresh cranberries), and eventually evolved the recipe to replace half the sugar with honey, and added the zest of one orange and one lemon. The sauce was tart and sweet with aromatic citrus notes complemented by the mellowness of honey, and had a nice chunky texture.

We thought we’d achieved cranberry sauce perfection. But last weekend at a friend’s party, we chatted with Emily Olson, co-founder of Foodzie.com, who mentioned a recipe that included cranberries roasted with sugar and bourbon. Since my husband is of the opinion that all cooking should involve bourbon, the next day he went to work researching this fabled concoction. After tweaking his recipe quite a bit, the results were even better: more robust cranberry flavor and texture, and a creamy-smooth finish from the bourbon.

The results:


And finally, here’s the recipe (ancillary notes are courtesy of the husband)…the main differences are that bourbon, but no water is added, and the berries are cooked low and slow, rather than boiled with water:

honey bourbon cranberry sauce

  • 12 oz. fresh cranberries, rinsed and patted dry
    (you want to remove excess water, but the berries should be damp)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup bourbon
    [husband: Because everything is better with Jim Beam.]
  • zest of one lemon
  • zest of one medium orange
    [husband: No nutmeg or cinnamon. Seriously, it’s cranberry sauce, not a Christmas candle.]
  • toss the sugar and cranberries in a 4-qt. sauce pan to coat the berries as pictured above
  • cover the pot, leaving the lid cracked open, and simmer the sugared cranberries over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, until all the berries have burst and the mixture is slightly reduced
    [husband: Don’t boil them. These aren’t potatoes; you want to taste them.]
  • add the bourbon, honey, and zest, and stir for another minute or two until the sauce has a syrup-like consistency
    (when it cools it will be much thicker)
  • remove from heat, and get the sauce into its serving bowl
  • let the sauce sit at least 5–6 hours to let the bitter components in the zest & cranberries break down
  • store refrigerated (sauce can be made a day ahead), but serve warm
    [husband: I don’t understand why people hide the taste of cranberries by serving them cold.]


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