The Best Part of Thanksgiving: Nanny's Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is an essential part of many Thanksgiving dinners. Here are our favorite cranberry sauce recipes to make and cherish this holiday season.

This will probably sound weird to many people, but I'll admit it anyway: cranberry sauce is my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner.

Sure, I love turkey and stuffing as much as the next person. And I don't consider it Thanksgiving without a slice of pumpkin pie. I even like the fun, pre-dinner nibbles: spiced nuts, little bowls of dip, stuffed mushrooms. But cranberry sauce is my thing. I'll eat seconds, thirds and fourths long after all of the food has been put back in the fridge.

I love cranberry sauce so much, I ask for two kinds. There is my version: the bright and tangy relish that I make with whole cranberries and oranges, lots of fresh ginger and a generous dose of white pepper for heat. A little bit goes a long way. (Unless you're me.)

And then there's my grandmother's version: the Jell-O-based cranberry sauce I grew up eating and still love for sentimental reasons. She makes it with a can of cranberry sauce, cranberry-raspberry Jell-O, chopped walnuts and crushed pineapple.

Every time I see her cranberry sauce in its 1950's plastic mold, the food editor in me performs a mental makeover of the dish, trading the retro ingredients for homemade gelatin, fresh pineapple and whole cranberries. But then it wouldn't be my Nanny's recipe, the dish I've asked for every Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember. Eating it is like being six years old again.

And isn't that what Thanksgiving is all about, mixing past and present traditions? It's one of the few times we gather around a table with our family and re-enter our childhood again and again.

Nanny's Cranberry Sauce
Recipe by Lois Stout

2 cups hot water
1 can whole bean cranberry sauce
2 boxes cranberry-raspberry Jell-O
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 small can crushed pineapple (about 1 cup)

In a medium-sized bowl, combine hot water and the can of cranberry sauce. Stir until the sauce is fairly broken down.

Add the Jell-O powder and stir until combined.

Stir in the pineapple and walnuts.

Pour into a plastic mold (or serving bowl) and refrigerate overnight.

Makes about 2 cups

Cranberry relish
Originally from Jasper White

2 oranges
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

Peel 1 orange and cut the zest (orange part only) into a very fine julienne, as thin as possible; set aside. Squeeze both oranges for juice; set aside.

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a small pan. Heat up slowly and continue cooking until the sugar begins to caramelize.

When the sugar is caramel colored, add the julienned ginger and orange zest. Cook for about 1 minute, then add the cranberries, orange juice and pepper.

Continue to cook on medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until the cranberries are slightly broken but not mushy. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Makes about 3 cups

Want more cranberry sauce recipes? Try these:
Orange Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry-Orange Relish with Ginger
Brown Sugar Cranberry Relish
Southern Cranberry Sauce with Pecans, Dried Apricots and Bourbon
Tiffani Thiessen's Cranberry Sauce
Sassy Cranberry Sauce

WATCH: Thanksgiving Face-Off: Homemade vs. Store Bought?

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