Cranberry sauce made from scratch with hand-picked berries makes a special holiday treat. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

Cranberry sauce made from scratch with hand-picked berries makes a special holiday treat. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

Foraging with love and gratitude

Gathered and prepared by hand, cranberries brighten a Thanksgiving feast

A few years ago, the women of our family started a new end of year tradition that celebrates the natural world. Over the course of the year, participants are tasked with creating a gift for every member that features materials that were foraged from nature — we call it Forage Fest.

We are encouraged to be creative and to learn new skills and information that we can share with the group when we present our gifts to the table. Over the years we have been gifted some spectacular items: beautiful handwoven baskets made from gathered pine needles, chaga ointments, beeswax candles made with painstakingly hand-extracted wax from personal hives, spruce tip syrups, mushroom salts, local seaweed furikake and hand-dyed and sewn napkins.

My contribution this year features the bounty of cranberries I gathered with my family this fall. Each stuffed gallon bag in my freezer represents hours spent in each other’s company, long conversations, and bike rides home with full buckets balanced on handlebars.

Over the short weeks the cranberries were ripe for harvest, we went out many times, sometimes with visiting friends or cousins in tow, to create memories of wet knees and improvised games among the mossy hillocks. Each jar of spiced cranberry sauce I will present to the gathering this year will be filled with my love and gratitude for happy memories made together, and appreciation for the opportunity to share a special day with some very special women.

Cranberry sauce

Ingredients for a small batch:

4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

1 cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground clove

The juice and zest of one orange

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon pectin


Prepare your canning equipment by sanitizing in boiling water.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan whisk together the orange juice and pectin until dissolved.

Add the cranberries, maple syrup, zest and salt and just enough water so you can see the water, but the berries aren’t fully submerged.

Heat until you reach a rolling boil, then reduce the heat slightly.

Add the brown sugar, cinnamon and clove and continue boiling.

The sauce will reduce and thicken as the water boils out. The berries should soften and burst as they cook.

When the sauce has reached your desired consistency — you can opt for a jam consistency or something a bit looser depending on your preference — turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Allow the sauce to cool while you prepare your canning equipment.

Stage your jars on an old kitchen towel you don’t mind staining — there’s bound to be some stray drops.

Ladle the sauce into the hot jars leaving at least half an inch at the top of the jar.

Wipe the rims with a clean, wet towel and apply the lids and rings.

Submerge the closed jars with at least an inch of water above the tops and bring to a soft boil.

Allow the jars to process for 10 minutes before removing and returning to the kitchen towel. Use canning tongs and be sure to keep the jars upright the entire time.

Let the jars cool completely on the kitchen towel. You should hear the lids ping as the seal is formed on the jars. You can check for a seal by removing the rings once completely cooled and gently attempting to move the lid — it should be firmly attached. If the lid comes off easily, the seal was unsuccessful, and you will need to repeat the process.

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