adult | alcohol | berries | canning | cranberry | fruit | holiday | lemon | preserved foods | recipe | sauce | seasonal | traditional with a twist | unique

The cranberry saw us.

December 6, 2011

Sometimes people find out I have a website called ‘Cupcake Rehab’ & they’re surprised to learn that I not only bake, & most certainly not just cupcakes… but that I also cook, & occasionally I enjoy making things like pickles & jams. That might be because there’s an either/or mentality among some chefs (or pastry chefs- as in you either bake or cook but not both.. and if you do, you do one way better than the other) & even TV food personalities, or that people are way too literal. I’m good at a lot of things, but I’m certainly not perfect at anything- let alone anything kitchen-wise- it’s just that I enjoy doing it, so I don’t feel like I have to prove anything. But either way, my interests in the kitchen are quite varied, & I love finding new ways of doing old things in general. Or new ways of interpreting traditions or traditional foods. Like cranberries.

From Bilder ur Nordens Flora, 1905

And that brings me to cranberry sauce. It’s practically against the law not to have it on hand this time of year. But why go the boring old regular cranberry sauce route, or worse yet, the canned sauce route? Especially if you can make your own in less than an hour?

Not to mention it has Amaretto in it.

Yes. Homemade, boozy & delicious. And I’m totally not kidding when I say it took less than an hour to make, from start to finish. And it’s gorgeous looking (& smelling). And if you don’t ‘can’ or preserve foods, you don’t even have to do it with this recipe. Just alter the amounts to fit in whatever jar you’re using, make it, then refrigerate it & use it immediately (well, not like, within an hour… but you know what I mean). I got the recipe from Smedette via Punk Domestics. And it is fan-friggin’-tastical.

Like my mismatched jars? Heh.

I made these back before Thanksgiving, so that I could use them on turkey day (along with my pomegranate-based Chinese Apple-sauce), but cranberry sauce is so Christmas-appropriate too that I felt I could post it now & it would still be relevant. Besides, cranberry fans eat cranberry all the time, right, not just during the holidays! And if you like cranberry, and you like Amaretto, and you like lemon zest… you’ll like this. If you don’t, well, stop reading & click here.

So I bet the rest of ya wanna know how it’s done, huh?

I’m telling you, it’s super easy. You’ll see.

AMARETTO CRANBERRY SAUCE (recipe from Smedette, word for word)

Makes about 4 12-oz. jars, or less depending how long you let it cook


  • 3 12-oz bags of fresh whole unsweetened cranberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Finely grated zest from one lemon
  • 2 cups Amaretto


  1. Put everything in a large pot over medium heat. Stir to coat.
  2. Once sugar dissolves into the Amaretto and becomes thick and syrup-like, reduce heat and simmer; cranberries will start to burst as they simmer. Cook until desired consistency is reached; 30-60 minutes. Sauce will thicken as it rests/refrigerates!
  3. You have made cranberry sauce; it will amaze your family and friends. Your in-laws may even start to like you.
  4. Store in the fridge for a few days or can using the directions below.

To can the sauce:

Ladle hot cranberry sauce into hot, clean jars leaving ½″ headspace. Wipe rims, place lids and affix screw bands. Process using the water bath method for 15 minutes. Let cool on towel-lined counter/table top for 12 hours before checking the seal; label and store. If any jars failed to seal correctly, refrigerate and consume within a week.

The author of the original recipe says you can use brandy instead of Amaretto as well, just increase the sugar a bit.

Also, I altered it to fit into the jars I had on hand (which happened to be three 8-oz. jars, yet I ended up only using two because I cooked the berries down a bit more), but yet I kept the lemon zest amount the same. This made it nice & tart & lemon-y bright, but balanced well with the sweetness of the liquor. The Amaretto is not in-your-face, but nice & subtle. It’s just perfection. And best of all- it’s not the same ol’, same ol’ cranberry sauce from a can. And apparently, it’s excellent on ice cream, too, and even on salad (like a berry vinaigrette I suppose?).

Look! It’s wearing a little sweater!

Which brings me to my suggestion of gifting jars of homemade preserves or sauces for Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa). Its an easy way to save money on gifts as well… and it’s not only impressive looking but extremely personalized. Especially when dressed up in a fancy way, like these beautiful examples. For instance, Jay loves pickles (specifically my green coriander pickles), my mother loves peperoncini sott’olio, anything fig or cherry, or marmalade, my aunt loves strawberry jam, etc. I can make them big jars of what they love, tie pretty bows on them with lovely labels, and they know it’s a gift from the heart (although Tiffany’s is nice, too, haha). The jar above is just really simply decorated with the top of a wool sock (clean, mind you, & one that had gotten too many holes in it to fix, so was no longer of use in it’s original form), some twine, a little cupcake topper & a pink jingle bell. Old sweater sleeves, t-shirt sleeves & leg warmers are perfect to use too. Basically anything can dress up a jar or become a “jar cozy” & at the same time make it look more special for gifting. Thrift store finds like baby sweaters or baby hats can work too, as can old beaded necklaces twisted around the lid or a fancy pin or brooch pinned to the twine or ribbon. It’s fun, cheap, easy & quick to make a small jar of homemade preserves stand out. I entered the above photo in Well Preserved‘s ‘Pimp That Preserve’ contest, here’s hoping I win! Though I’m sure there’s some stiff competition out there. However… I did enter another stunning (well if I do say so myself) photo of some very interesting jelly all decked out in sparkly things… but that recipe won’t be posted for awhile… anyway we’ll see. You can find out exactly how it works/how to enter by going to the Well Preserved blog post about it. Pretty much, you can cast a vote for mine (or for others, or both!) on the Well Preserved Facebook page; just by going to the photo album for Pimp That Preserve 2011 & clicking like on the photo. Voting should begin around December 12th. For more ideas on dressing up your canned goods for holiday gifting or for entering your own preserves in the contest, Canning Across America has a bunch of swell ideas too, including plenty that should inspire you in your preserve pimpin’!

So anyway as difficult as this first year without Uncle Pat & my Nana will be, we all plod on & drown our sorrows in a variety of alcohol-laced fruit sauces, jams & marmalades. Merry Christmas to all indeed.

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