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For Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys, it seems that cranberry sauce is as mandatory as mashed potatoes. You may eat cranberries only once or twice a year, but now is the time.

The question, though, is this: how can I get a miraculous sauce from those brilliant, bitter, and radiant berries.

When it comes to sauces, some folks eat the canned version. More and more, people do make their own sauce using berries and other components. Most of the sauce recipes tend to be sweet, with sugar, citrus and possibly raisins.

This sauce version is a bit more slanted on the savory side. The raisins are here and some sugar. But there are a lot of onion, butter, balsamic vinegar, thyme and garlic. This sauce will strikingly different from any you have experienced.

This recipe comes from the heritage cookbook Cold-Weather Cooking by Sarah Leah Chase. The book is almost 30 years old but this recipes — just like so many cranberry recipes — is timeless.

For Christmas dinner, Suzen and I will be make a very, very, very large pork shoulder. Suzen says it will need 10 hours in the oven. The flavor of that meat will be formidable so the side dishes will need legs like a linebacker. This cranberry sauce, replete with both sweet and savory flavors, is sure to be an excellent complement.  Ah, see, turkey may need cranberries, but cranberries do not need turkey. The joy of cranberries can be enjoyed in far more ways than trandition has dictacted. Free the berries!

Canadian Cranberry Confit with Onions and Raisins

Serves: about 4 cups


  • 1 ½ pounds white pearl onions
  • ⅔ cup golden raisins
  • ⅔ cup dark raisins
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups dry red wine
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme 1
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries


Trim the onions, leaving the skins on. Drop the onions into a large pot of boiling water and cook 30 seconds. Drain and slip the onions out of their skins as soon as they are cool enough to handle.

Combine the raisins in a small bowl, cover with the 2 cups of boiling water, and let stand 10 minutes.

Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat and stir in the onions. Add the sugar and 1 tablespoon of the vinegar. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved and beginning to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining vinegar and the wine; bring to a boil and continue to boil 2 minutes. Add the raisins with soaking liquid, the garlic, thyme, and salt. Simmer the mixture covered until the onions are tender, about 45 minutes.

Add the cranberries to the pan. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries are cooked and the confit has thickened, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the confit cool and serve at room temperature. Store any leftover confit in the refrigerator but be sure to bring it back to room temperature before serving.

Source: Cold-Weather Cooking by Sarah Leah Chase