As I write this, it’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, 2012. I did my Thanksgiving grocery shopping today, then came home and made cranberry sauce. Then it occurred to me that perhaps some of you would like to make your own cranberry sauce, too, and maybe I’d better write about it.
Cranberries, like most berries, are a low sugar fruit. A whole 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries – that’s what they sell in my grocery store, at any rate – has 167 calories, with 43 grams of carb, 14 of which are fiber. So that whole bag has 29 grams of usable carb in it. They’re an okay source of vitamin C, and a very rich source of antioxidant pigments called proanthocyanidins.
The problem with cranberries, of course, is that they’re so low in sugar that they’re quite tart – so tart that most people only eat them with copious quantities of sugar added. According to the Ocean Spray website, a quarter-cup serving of cranberry sauce, whether whole-berry or jellied, contains 25 grams of carbohydrate, with no fiber worth noting. I’m willing to indulge a little on Thanksgiving, but I plan to get most of my carbs in the form of brussels sprouts, apple-walnut dressings, and rutabaga, which I adore. (Isn’t that an odd thing to be passionate about?) I’m hoping not to get more than 30-40 grams of carb in my whole dinner, so I sure can’t afford to “spend” 25 grams on cranberry sauce!
Fortunately, making cranberry sauce is quick and easy. Really, really quick and easy. The standard recipe for making whole berry cranberry sauce – on every bag of fresh cranberries I’ve ever purchased – is:
- 12 Ounces fresh cranberries
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
Combine in a non-reactive saucepan, bring to a simmer, and cook till the berries pop. Cool, and store in a jar or snap-top container in the fridge.
The question, of course, is what to use in place of the sugar?
I have often used granular Splenda, which gives a good result, though the yield is smaller than with sugar, since low carb Splenda fizzles away to nothing when you get it wet. If you use granular Splenda, figure you’ll get a little over two cups of sauce.
This year, I have guests coming for Thanksgiving, and I don’t know how they feel about Splenda – so many people seem to have a grudge against the stuff. I decided to use erythritol and stevia. I’ve found these two sweeteners to work well together, while stevia alone so often seems to wind up bitter, and erythritol alone gives the food a powerful cooling quality in the mouth.
I have had some trouble, though, with erythritol yielding a gritty result in some foods, so I decided to try grinding it up. I had seen a recipe for turning granular erythritol into powdered “sugar” by whirling it in a food processor. I tried it, and it worked nicely. I used 1/2 cup of this powdered erythritol, then added 25 drops of NuNaturals liquid stevia extract. This is about the right degree of sweetness for me, but you could add more or less stevia, to taste.
The other issue is pectin. Commercial whole-berry sauce is thick partly because it’s syrupy, but also because of the pectin in the cranberries. However, without sugar pectin tends not to work. To solve this problem, I also added a teaspoon of unflavored gelatin powder, which worked nicely – gave the cooled sauce a nice thick texture without turning it into Jello(tm).
Here’s what the finished recipe looks like:
No-Sugar-Added Cranberry Sauce
- 12 ounce bag fresh cranberries
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder
- 1/2 cup powdered erythritol
- 25 drops liquid stevia extract, or to taste.
In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the cranberries and the water. Sprinkle the gelatin over the top, and put the whole thing over a medium burner. Bring to a simmer. Add the sweeteners, stirring till the erythritol dissolves. Keep simmering till the berries pop. Taste, and adjust sweetness to your preference. Cool, and store in a closed container in the fridge.
Voila! This makes a bit over 2 cups; call it 10 servings. Each will have 19 calories, with 5 grams of carb and 1 gram of fiber, for 4 grams usable carb.
If, however, you have an inexplicable devotion to the canned jellied stuff, pushed whole out of the can with the ridges still on it, I’m afraid I can’t help you, except to urge you to try making your own sauce, fresh. It’s so good, you may well become an instant convert.
To powder granular erythritol, simply put a couple of cups of erythritol in a food processor with the S-blade in place, and run till the stuff is powdery. To make it more like confectioner’s sugar, you could add a tablespoon of cornstarch or arrowroot, but that will, of course, add a bit of carbohydrate – both have 7 grams of carb per tablespoon. I’m guessing that the arrowroot will be less likely to come from a GMO crop.
Oh, and for those who want to know, this Thanksgiving, I am serving:
- Roast Turkey (duh!)
- Apple Walnut Dressing (this is in 300 15 Minute Low Carb Recipes — and also at the end of this article.)
- ‘Baga Fries – strips of rutabaga steamed al dente, then fried golden in butter
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Green Beans Almondine
- Fauxtatoes – I think this year I’ll mix cauliflower with celery root, which has a great texture
Giblet gravy (thickened with glucomannan – guar or xanthan would work just as well, it’s just that I have glucomannan on hand)
- Cranberry Sauce
- Pumpkin Pie with a Pecan Praline Crust
- Whipped Cream – still debating about whether I want to just add a little French Vanilla stevia extract to the cream, or use Caramel SF coffee flavoring syrup and a touch of gelatin, and make caramel whipped cream. Decisions, decisions…
And then, of course, a weekend of leftovers!
I am deeply grateful for you all, for the love, support, humor, and creativity of the low carb community, for the opportunity to serve you, and for all my friends at CarbSmart – Andrew, Amy, Marcy, Susie, Jimmy, Hank, Vanessa, Laura, Valerie, Caitlin, Dr. Joe, Ed – all of you. And always and forever, I am grateful for Eric Schmitz, more often referred to as That Nice Boy I Married. I am a very fortunate woman.