Sweeter, thicker, smoother and more intense than cranberry sauce, this is a cross between jam and French pate de fruits.
Just in time for Christmas, I’ve made myself a little pot of cranberry preserve. It’s basically twice cooked cranberry sauce, with the texture of firm jelly or smooth, pipless jam, quite like the French pate de fruits but in bulk.
It’s certainly a worthy addition to the festive table and, even though it’s double-cooked, it’s mighty easy to make.
The world of fruit preserves
I struggled somewhat with naming my creation but it is the closest to what the Americans call ‘fruit butter’ even though there is no dairy connections.
Fruit is cooked then puréed, passed through a sieve, a mill or a high-power blender so it’s perfectly smooth without any pesky pips or skins. Then it’s cooked again with added sugar, in a slow cooker or a crock pot.
The most common of those fruit butters is apple butter.
Cranberry butter is a little like smooth jam, thick and spreadable in texture. The point of my proceedings was to firstly intensify the flavour and then to make it thick enough so it kept the shape when filled into pies and baked, or sandwiched between gingerbreads.
First cranberry cooking
Both fresh and frozen cranberries will work in the recipe. The first cooking aims to soften the fruit so it can be puréed and sieved into smoothness. It takes only ten to fifteen minutes.
The easiest way of getting rid of the bits and seeds is to pass the pulp through a food mill with the smallest mesh.
If you haven’t got one, it will mean elbow grease and pushing the pulp through an ordinary metal sieve. A soup ladle is the perfect tool to make the cranberries go through it.
Second cranberry cooking
The smooth purée needs to cook with sugar now, plus a cinnamon stick and a couple of whole cloves, which will make the house smell gorgeously Christmassy. I use demerara cane sugar, for the dark molasses tang.
This stage takes anything from ten to thirty minutes of gentle simmering, with an occasional stir to stop the butter catching to the bottom of the pan.
If you prefer it runnier, stop at ten or fifteen minutes bearing in mind it will thicken further as it chills.
If you’re making it for immediate use, just spoon it into a bowl and store in the fridge.
For longer keeping, scald a clean jar with boiling water, including the lid, and pour the butter into it. Pop the lid on while it’s hot so it seals better and let the jar cool down before stashing it away in the jam and jelly cupboard.
How to use the cranberry butter?
It’s versatile, and it’s festive so you can use it like any jam or jelly but you can also make a special feature out of it for the holiday period.
Serve it with turkey instead of the sauce.
Blend it with an equal quantity of softened dairy butter (double the butter factor!) to spread on fruitcake, scones, toast and crumpets (if anyone actually ever has crumpets these days?).
Use it in baking too: hybrid mince-cranberry pies are a fabulous treat that will please both sides of the ocean.
Spread it on a sponge base before filling it with whipped cream, for a festive take on Victoria sandwich.
And it’s to die for on a buttered toast (butter on butter!), on Christmas Eve, when wrapped in a blanket and the excitement of the Day to come.
More cranberry recipes
The classic version: tartly sweet cranberry sauce made with orange juice, the simplest recipe. This cranberry sauce can be made ahead and keeps well in the fridge.
Gingerbread cake with jammy cranberries dotted all over the dark brown sugary surface. It’s honestly better than Christmas cake!
Cranberry and walnut bread made with fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped walnuts and orange juice and zest. It has intense flavour, gorgeous cranberry tang and crunchy sugar topping.
More preserve recipes
Apple marmalade, thick and gorgeous spiced apple preserve with natural pectin. If it’s never jam today, perhaps we can have some marmalade, eh?
Fresh fig confit: confiture with whole chunks of figs in a syrup made with port or madeira wine. This fig confit is more versatile than jam as it can be served with cheeses and meats.
Homemade redcurrant jelly is awesome with roast lamb, turkey pie and venison steaks. And this is a super speedy recipe which still makes crystal clear jelly!