Monday, December 21, 2015

Cranberry-Orange-Maple Sauce

I will admit that my results for this will not be ones that can be generalized to other attempts at this recipe because I substantially modified the ingredients list on the Times Cranberry-Orange-Maple sauce in order to remove a lot of the sugar. Using sugar substitutes cut the calories in the sauce dramatically, but I'm sure it also stripped it of some of its essential qualities. That being said, the recipe did form a flavor backbone for my result.

The Times recipe uses fairly classic ingredients including whole cranberries, an orange, and sugar. The twists are added with maple syrup and candied ginger. I had to start this process by making my own ginger because I didn't have any on hand. It's not hard, but takes a bit of effort and time. I made a reduced sugar version of that as well, but that almost certainly had no impact on the result with only a tablespoon of candied ginger going into it and the sweetness mattering less than the spiciness of the ginger.

As the recipe instructed, I started with 12 oz. of whole, fresh cranberries and added a cup of water. Instead of sugar, I used the equivalent sweetness of a half cup of sugar in heat-stable sweetener (in this case, 12 packets of Splenda).

 Instead of using an orange and juice though, I saved the rinds from two clementines and pureed a whole clementine in a 1/2 cup of water in a Magic Bullet. This thick puree was added to the cooking cranberries and sweetener. I also added a pinch of salt. The reason I opted for this choice over the orange juice and rind was that I was concerned that the lack of sugar would mean the sauce would not thicken as there could be no sugar syrup formed. The pectin in the rind would act as a thickener while the sweetener gave it sweetness.

This worked very, very well as my sauce became very thick and came together well. The main drawback is that the large quantity of orange puree made the sauce look rather pinkish rather than the vibrant red that it should be. It was not the least bit photogenic. It looks like an alien creature burbling in it's vaguely fluorescent primordial soup:

When the sauce had reached the right thickness, I added 1/4 cup of maple-flavored sugar-free syrup. I'm sure that, quality-wise, this was the biggest sacrifice in flavor. Finally, I chopped up some ginger and added it then tasted for sweetness. Despite the fact that I used a 1/2 cup less equivalent of sugar in sweetener, this seemed very sweet to me. It was more than enough to counterbalance the tart cranberries. It's possible that the sweetener just seems sweeter than sugar, or maybe the original recipe needed a lot of sugar to form a thickened syrup. It's hard to say, but I'm guessing that it could do with less sugar.

This is one of those recipes that is better when it rests and the flavors have time to merge together. I was not displeased with the taste and was happy with the texture, but the orange seemed to be too potent and the cranberries came through as very tart without enough sweetness to off-set it despite the fact that the sauce seemed to be sweet enough overall.

My cranberry sauce weighed in at 25 calories per 1/4 cup serving. I didn't calculate the Times numbers, but a canned sauce brings you 110 calories per quarter cup. One of the reasons that I wanted to make my own was to save a few calories on a day that desperately can use such a reduction. I'm not sure that it was worth it, but I do believe this would work better with a lot less orange. 

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