Why do we only eat cranberries once a year? I mean, besides the fact that they’re really tart and need a ton of sugar to taste good?

The formula for good cranberry sauce is ingeniously simple: A cup of water and a cup of sugar brought to a rolling boil, with the berries deposited into the frothing maw then cooked down sufficiently to break the skins and create a jellied consistency when chilled.

Fun facts: Cranberries are native to North America and rich in vitamins and antioxidants. They’re the tonic to the otherwise starch-heavy Thanksgiving slate of mashed potatoes, stuffing and mac and cheese. They’re the side that tastes like dessert. The brilliant crimson of cranberry sauce redeems a plate otherwise mired in drab hues of white, brown and yellow.

Beyond the essentials of berries, sugar and water, cranberry sauce can be dressed up in innumerable ways. I throw in some chopped walnuts to give the sauce heft and crunch. Orange zest is never a bad idea. This year I also had a lemon to work with. The lemon would have been grated along with the orange had I not made a mistake and halved it first. After abrading the distal interphalangeal joint of my thumb, I gave up and just sliced off the peel with a paring knife. I think having different consistencies of citrus turned out to be a good innovation: There’s a subtle infusion of orange next to the boldly announced zing of lemon.

For those who forgot cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving or want to refine their method, luckily Christmas is right around the corner.

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