How do you improve upon perfection? You find a unique occasion and drill down. In this case, Canadian Thanksgiving.
My earlier version of cranberry sauce with maple syrup, orange zest and a tiny pinch of clove for backbone received a lot of love online. The smallest hint of clove really did make the difference, many of you told me. I have now , however, come to think of that version as my Christmas cranberry sauce. For Thanksgiving, I wanted something different.
At Christmas, my turkey usually goes in the oven. In October, it’s usually warm enough that we can smoke the turkey outside, and this is the flavour that I wanted to echo in the cranberry sauce, no matter how you cook it.
Once again, just one weird little secret ingredient is going to take your cranberry sauce from good to great. Here it is: Lapsang Souching. smoky Chinese black tea.
I know! I’m tea-obsessed. True! But not just because I love to drink tea. Because like wine, or salt, or best-quality olive oil, some ingredients are really versatile and transformative. I make no apologies for finding several ways to use this all-star ingredient. And wait until you taste it!
This recipe is the cranberry sauce for people who don’t really like cranberry sauce. I am a gravy person myself. I don’t mind cranberry in a sandwich, but this sauce is so good I’m already thinking of other ways to use it: on toasts with chèvre, on roast duck breast (which I sous vide with the same Lapsang Souching for smoky flavour), as a glaze for chicken thighs. This sauce is not too tart or too sweet, and it’s not so dominated by cranberry that it’s a single flavour note drowned in sweetness.
This sauce is the perfect balance of sweet, sour, bitter, and salt. The tannins in the tea as well as the decent dose of salt add a perfect counterfoil to the overwhelming tartness of cranberry, so that the sugar in the syrup is not left to tackle it alone.
So when you are making that shopping list for Thanksgiving, add Lapsang Souching tea to the list, along with some good old Canadian maple syrup. You’ll be surprised and delighted, I assure you. And so will your guests!
- 1 bag fresh cranberries (340 g)
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 10 gr loose leaf Lapsang Souching, or 1-2 tea bags
- sea salt
- Pour your cranberries into a medium-sized pot. Add in cup of maple syrup and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Boil until all cranberries have popped.
- Turn off heat, smush the cranberries with a spoon.
- Immediately add in your tea bag(s). For loose-leaf tea, I use two bags with 5 grams each. For store-bought bags, start with one. The finer grind on the leaf will enhance its ability to saturate the syrup.
- Let tea bags cool in pot for 10 minutes. Remove tea bags and discard.
- Add in 4 or 5 twists of sea salt from a shaker, or a big pinch of sea salt.
- Stir together until texture is jammy with smallish cranberry bits.
- Enjoy! Your guests will wonder what the difference is. Will you share the secret?
- If you prefer a thicker sauce, reduce maple syrup to ¾ cup.
- If using store-bought tea bags, start with one tea bag. The tea is not necessarily stronger, but it is finer ground, and will have more surface area to interact with the maple syrup, and so may pack more of a punch.
- If using loose leaf tea in tea filters, be sure not to let any leaves escape. Tea leaves can be delicious to eat when prepared correctly, but they don’t sit in the sauce long enough to soften and will bring an unwelcome tough texture.
- Make sure you give a good dose of sea salt. No iodised salt here, unless you want to add to the tinniness of the cranberries.