Even non-foodies are passionate about their Thanksgiving foods. Would you prefer white meat or dark? Do you call it stuffing or dressing? Is ambrosia salad actually food? But the one T-day element that cleaves the world neatly in two is cranberry sauce. In one corner you have the folks who like the gelatinous log embossed with the ridges from the can; in the other you have devotees of a chunky sauce or relish made with fresh cranberries, often with citrus and/or nuts. It's not a topic people are ambivalent about.
I was curious where affinities lie, so I asked about 1,700 of my closest friends. The results were surprising, with an overwhelming show of support for chunky cranberry sauce. The log didn't stand a chance.
Personally, I too like a nice fresh cranberry sauce, but when it comes to the all-important post-Thanksgiving sandwich (truly, the very point of having the big meal in the first place), I rather like the jelly. Maybe it's just nostalgia, but there is no substitute.
I live in a temperate part of the world. Consequently, cranberries don't make a showing at my local farmers' markets. While I'm not religious about it, I do make an effort to eat locally, so cranberry sauce is pretty much out of the question.
What we do have in great abundance, though, is pomegranates. And hey, they're red and tart ... and make a fabulous jelly.
I knew for this jelly I wanted a harder set than I normally would go for, as well as a grainy texture that might invoke the cranberry sauce experience. I got it, but sort of by accident. I made an error judging my juice-sugar-pectin ratio, and ended up using more pectin than I intended. By almost double.
But in the end I got a surprisingly close approximation of the classic cranberry sauce, if a little stickier. After soaking the jar in hot water for a couple minutes, the hard-set jelly slumped out with a slight slurp, and then reclined into a shimmering, quivering log. Now all I have to do is carve the ridges into it.
Put the pomegranate juice in a large, nonreactive pot over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, mix the pectin and sugar in a bowl, whisking to combine. When the juice comes to a boil, add the sugar-pectin mix, whisking to stir and dissolve, and the lemon juice. Bring back to the boil and boil hard for one full minute. Turn off the heat, ladle into sterilized jars, leaving 1/8" headroom, and process via the water-bath method.
Sean Timberlake is a professional writer, amateur foodie, avid traveler and all-around bon vivant. He is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts, and has penned the blog Hedonia since 2006. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, DPaul Brown, and their hyperactive terrier, Reese.