M. Andrew Gordon

A Year in the Making…Cranberry Barbecue Sauce

In Sauces on November 15, 2009 at 7:11 pm

The sauce only takes about 20 minutes to make.  The year referenced in this post’s title is simply how long it took me to actually figure out how I made this sauce last year.  And expect more Thanksgiving themed dishes in the coming weeks.

CranberriesBarbecue is a culinary tradition nearly everywhere in the United States, and well beyond of course.  One of the many distinguishing factors are the myriad sauces that crop up in different regions.  New England, however, is sorely lacking in having a barbecue sauce of its own.  What would a cranberry barbecue sauce taste like?  A logical choice would be to use some maple syrup in place of the molasses that is often used.  But as much as I love maple, it is almost too sweet for this, as molasses has a robust flavor and maple is a more delicate sweetness.  It could be hyper-avant garde and use lobster or clams, but even that stretches my limits of comprehension (though if anyone tries making it, I will certainly try eating it).  No, it really calls for a marriage of a prototypical barbecue with cranberry sauce, that sublime combination of sweet and tart.  Cranberry sauce can stand up as a replacement for molasses, though in my version below, molasses is included as well.

The onion, garlic, and ginger give the sauce a pleasant base, creating some complexity and a firm base to build from.  After that it is like constructing cranberry sauce – cranberries, sugar, and water – and then once that is ready, further tweaking it until you arrive at the finished product.  But even just through the cranberry sauce step yields a pleasant sauce that would be a great accompaniment to venison or pork.Shredded wheat-molasses rolls

On Saturday we served it mixed with a barbecued and shredded beef, making sandwiches with Shredded Wheat-Molasses Rolls.*  Side dishes included were a mashed sweet potato-plantain with roasted garlic and ginger and a bacon-fennel stuffing, both recipes to follow in subsequent posts.

*The aforementioned shredded wheat-molasses rolls, or bread, is a long-standing family tradition at Thanksgiving.  Since I have done nothing to alter the recipe and make it my own, it doesn’t meet my needs for posting here.  But if anyone is interested in it, let me know.

Cranberry Barbecue Sauce

  • 1 red onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 one-inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for cooking
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup sugar, preferably turbinado or muscavado
  • 1 ½ cups ground/crushed tomatoes
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • ½ teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle puree, plus more to taste
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  1. Puree onion, garlic, ginger and 2 tablespoons oil in food processor until mostly smooth.  Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat and add onion mixture.  Cook for about five minutes.
  2. Add cranberries, water, and sugar and bring to a boil.  Turn down and let cook, stirring often, until cranberries burst.
  3. Add tomatoes, ketchup, molasses, liquid smoke, vinegar, and chipotle puree.  Stir together and cook for another 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

IMG_3173This was so good, it almost warrants a post all its own.  Except it is really only practical to make if you have all of these ingredients leftover to begin with, which is unlikely to happen again.  But what is pictured on the left is a toasted shredded wheat-molasses roll topped with mashed sweet potato-plantain with roasted garlic and ginger, and a fried egg.  Actually, a drizzle of the cranberry barbecue sauce would have been fantastic here.  Why I did not think of that may be directly attributable to the state of mind I found myself in on this particular Sunday morning, the same state of mind that made this so spectacularly good.  And honestly, I kind of liked the picture.

  1. Matthew,
    We really need to develop our cragnac recipe…

  2. […] putting these on my short list of unique brunch items for a future brunch (see Shrimp Waffles and Shredded Wheat rolls with Mashed Sweet Potato at the bottom of this post).  Recipe for the coco-mole cakes follows main […]

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