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!