By Cassie Johnston
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If you haven’t picked up on it by now, my love language is food. It’s how I show my love to my family, my friends, you guys, and even myself. I’m not always good at remembering birthdays or calling when I should call or saying the right thing in a crisis, but if I’ve ever brought you food or cooked for you, know that that is the deepest expression of my adoration.
Knowing this, it probably comes as absolutely no surprise that Thanksgiving is one of my most favorite of holidays. An entire day that focuses on food, family, and gratitude? I am HERE for it! And I am here for getting a little experimental in my Turkey Day kitchen, too. Of course, we’re all going to have family favorites that you don’t mess with (in my family: chicken and dumplings, Mama’s stuffing, and sweet potato casserole are not-to-be-altered traditions), but there are also some places to get a little bit creative. And one of my favorite places to experiment? The cranberry sauce!
For most people, cranberry sauce is an afterthought on Thanksgiving. It’s the thing that you relegate to your crazy Aunt Susan who insists on helping you cook even though she burns water. It’s the thing that if you forgot to put on the table, probably no one would even notice. I’m just going to say it: it’s…um…boring, guys.
And, beyond boring, when it’s made its traditional way, it’s also CHOCK FULL of sugar. Now, I’m not opposed to enjoying myself some sugar (especially on the holidays), but I personally want to save my sugar eating for wonderful holiday treats like a really good slice of pumpkin pie with real whipped cream. Not in some afterthought of a condiment. So a few years back, I set out to reinvent the cranberry sauce that showed up on my family’s table. I wanted something flavorful, healthier, and that let the gloriously tart and fruity flavor of cranberries really shine. Welcome to Chunky Cranberry Applesauce—my preferred cranberry side dish for not only just Turkey Day, but any time I serve poultry or pork.
This twist on cranberry sauce is naturally sweet thanks to a base of in-season apples. I’ve used all kinds of sweet apples for this applesauce in the past—Fuji, Braeburn, Gala, Honeycrisp—all with excellent results. Because we do want to keep the added sugar on the low side here (I use just 1/2 cup of maple syrup in the whole batch to balance out the tartness of the cranberries), stick to sweeter apples—save your Granny Smiths and Stayman Winesaps for pies and storage.
I was able to pick up all the ingredients for this Chunky Cranberry Applesauce (and all the other ingredients for my Turkey Day creations plus all the fun tableware, decorations, and kitchen gadgets I needed) at my local Meijer store. And when I say “pick up” I don’t mean I actually went shopping. Oh, no, no, no, my friends. Who has time for that around the holidays? I just drove up to the curb of my Meijer store and literally picked up my groceries thanks to Curbside Pickup through the shopmeijer app!
Everything on this table—from the cranberries to the corkscrew, the placemats to the pumpkins—was dropped right into my trunk by my personal shopper. I just picked it all out online, selected a time for pickup, and went on with my life! At my designated time, I showed up and met my very nice personal shopper, Danielle, and was on my way with a trunk full of groceries in less than five minutes.
I like the Curbside Pickup option, but if you live closer to a Meijer store than I do, you can also do Home Delivery through the shopmeijer app and have your groceries delivered in as little as an hour. The shopmeijer app is saving my holiday life, guys. The only thing they (legally, here in Indiana) can’t pick up for me is the alcohol. But that’s okay, I just popped into the store for five minutes, picked out some excellent white wines to serve, and was on my way! Still such a time saver.
Back to the Chunky Cranberry Applesauce—promise me you’ll make this ahead of time! This is one of those Thanksgiving dishes that is just begging to be made a few days in advance. Go ahead and get it out of the way earlier in the week, stash it in the fridge (or even freezer if you’re really ahead of the game), and then mark it off your list of to-dos. The flavor and texture is better after a good chill anyway.
In fact, I tend to make this big batch (about 12+ servings) and freeze it in pint-size Mason jars for non-holiday eating. This applesauce is glorious served next to a pork chop or a roast chicken, and it makes for a delicious snack, too. We love cranberry applesauce in our house!
Now, I prefer this Chunky Cranberry Applesauce well…chunky! That’s why I leave the peels on (well, that, and it’s easier and better for you), but you can definitely puree it as smooth as makes you and your family happy. Just grab your handy-dandy immersion blender and go to town. If you want a truly smooth sauce, add a touch more water than the recipe calls for, and then puree in a high-power blender until very smooth. Remember that applesauce always thickens up as it cools, so if it appears a bit thin when hot, no worries. Happy Thanksgiving!
Chunky Cranberry Applesauce is more flavorful and healthier than the typical cranberry sauce, and it really lets the flavor of the cranberries shine through.
Keywords: sides, Thanksgiving, cranberries, cranberry sauce, apples
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I LOOOOVE homemade apple sauce. I love baking with apples and pumpkins in the fall. I have to order a big bag of apples for our delivery box soon, so I can make some apple sauce and apple pie! I love to leave on the apple skin (peel?) but Doug doesn’t like it like that, so we usually make half with skin and half without.
I have never thought to use lemon juice when making apple sauce. I do for pie and just to keep cut up apples from turning brown/soggy. Does it really help them to stay pretty crisp in the apple sauce or do they still get squishy?
To me, when apples oxidize they feel mealy. But I think the lemon juice helps them to be soft without being mealy. Ha, if that makes any sense! So any chunks of apple that are left whole in the sauce are just tender, not mushy. And I think oxidized apples definitely taste different to! I’m sure you could skip the lemon water step, I’ve actually never tired!
Yeah, I hate that mealy texture! I’m going to have to use the lemon juice step next time I make apple sauce. I have a feeling it would improve the taste/texture a lot!
I used to keep lemon juice in a spray bottle when I packed my lunches for work, because I could cut up an apple, spray it with lemon juice, and it wouldn’t get brown and gross by lunch time. Best trick I ever learned!
What is a Dutch oven? I could ask Google but I think I’ll like your answer better :)
It is a big, heavy pot that kinda looks like a soup pot with a tight-fitting lid. It is normally made of cast iron. It is SO versatile. Perfect size for boiling pasta or making a soup, but not so huge that it takes a lot of effort to find a place to store it. Plus, it can go from the stove to the oven to the fridge. Oh, and mine is red. And that makes me happy. I use it for EVERYTHING. It heats very evenly, is naturally non stick and is basically just awesome.
There are also some more raunchy definitions of the term, which I’ll let you Google to find. :P
I am making the applesauce right now and my house smells ah-mazing. I can’t wait to eat the finished product.
I made this today and it turned out AMAZING. Thanks so much for the recipe (with pictures… I looove pictures!)
Yay! I’m so glad you liked it. We’re making it this week to sub in for cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving.
I made this for Thanksgiving this year, and it was a HUGE hit! A couple of people even said it was their favorite dish, beating out dinner rolls and mashed potatoes. :) Thank you!
Which Meijer do you use? I’ve been hoping the New Albany one would get curbside pick-up because it makes grocery shopping so much easier with kids.
That’s the one! They just started it in mid-October, and it’s amazing.
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