My friend and colleague Liz Songer recently brought me the most beautiful gift of two giant bags of fresh cranberries from her annual trip to Hayward, Wisconsin. She usually takes her trip to Hayward a little bit earlier than she did this year, but the benefit of the timing of this trip is that she got to be there during the cranberry harvest. I happened to be the lucky recipient of 12 quarts of these gleaming crimson beauties. It was a true sign fall had arrived, and I was excited!
My excitement pretty quickly moved to… what the heck am I going to do with all of these cranberries? Although I haven’t entirely given up on the idea of drying cranberries, my experiments thus far yielded pretty poor results. I certainly didn’t want to waste such a beautiful gift and in fact thought I needed to come up with something I could bring back to work and share with everybody. It only took a minute and then it hit me: fresh cranberry juice! I had never even thought of making cranberry juice before, but from now on, I will make a batch every fall. I do not use the term easy when I teach or write as it is such a relative term, but I’m going to say it now: making fresh cranberry juice is easy. Granted, it's not as easy as opening up a jar, but it is way more fun!
I made the recipe with half of the cranberries to start. I wanted to test the recipe but I also thought most people would not want 12 quarts of cranberry juice. As soon as I made the first batch, I went back and made the second. I wanted to have some for the holidays and as I mentioned, some to take back to work for people to try.
After making a few batches, I think the recipe is pretty basic and easy to scale up and down, so I’ll provide you with a 1-quart batch recipe. If you want more, simply times the recipe by the number of quarts you want. You will end up with a little more than a quart but that comes in handy if you make the cranberry sauce I share the recipe for below.
1 quart cranberries
1 quart water
½ to 1 cup (to taste) sweetener of choice: sugar, honey, pure cane syrup, agave nectar or artificial sweetener
Put the water and the cranberries in a pot and bring to a low boil. Boil until cranberries pop, 10 minutes or so. Drain the cranberry juice through a fine strainer pushing on the berries a little bit to extract juices.
Sweeten the juice with desired sweetener and put it in a jar and refrigerate. I tried sugar, honey, pure cane syrup and artificial sweetener. I am not a big fan of artificial sweetener ,but I do think it came out good if you are watching your sugar. I am not watching my sugar and in fact, found that sugar was my favorite out of the sweeteners. It was the cleanest tasting, allowed the cranberry flavor to shine and lends itself as a cocktail ingredient better. But I liked them all, as did the staff when I brought them to the office. If you put the cranberry juice in a sterilized 1-quart canning jar with a lid while the juice is still hot, it will create a seal and the juice will last for months in the fridge. It will last for a good long time even after you open it.
I threw away the cranberry flesh after I made the first batch of cranberry juice. I lost some sleep over that but the reason I chose to do so was because of the same rationale you use when you make a chicken stock or infuse vodka with fruit. The liquid takes all the flavor out of the vegetables and fruit and once you remove the flavor, they aren’t worth eating. The second time I made the cranberry juice I thought I would taste the cranberries to see how much flavor they had. They certainly had lost some flavor, but I thought they were still flavorful enough to make some cranberry sauce with. I simply added about a half cup of the cranberry juice for flavor and texture, ½ cup sugar, the berries and zest of 2 tangerines. You could use lemon too, but I don’t think orange would work. The cranberries lost some acidity during cooking so I replaced it with the tangerine juice. Reheat the cranberries until they thicken up and the liquid has reduced and put them in a 1-pint jar. Now I have cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving too!
This fun cranberry juice recipe can ad a little sparkle to your hand-crafted holiday cocktails, too. Try it in your Cosmopolitan, Sea Breeze or Woo Woo.
It’s also a special addition to your family-friendly Thanksgiving or holiday meals straight up or in a punch. If you need help with the dinner part of the holidays, we have tons of classes, recipes and information to assist you too!
Check out one of our upcoming Thanksgiving classes:
- Thanksgiving Crash Course Wednesday, November 14 10am Lincoln Square
- Thanksgiving Workshop Saturday, November 17 10am Merchandise Mart
- Thanksgiving Crash Course Sunday, November 18 10am Lincoln Square
If you can't join us for a class, download our Thanksgiving Survival Guide for our very best recipes and tips on cooking the holiday feast. And if you need a helping hand, we can even take care of dessert for you. Our chefs will be baking our famous Apple Pie and classic Pumpkin Pies handmade with love during Thanksgiving week. Place your order now!