All of this holiday eating can be daunting. Turkeys (make sure you roast it properly!), hams, potatoes, and pies dance on the table and in your belly for weeks on end. The holiday table often features a lot of brown food—which is admittedly very, very delicious—but sometimes it’s nice to brighten up the brown with a splash of color and flavor. Think of this autumn and cranberry sauce the decorative throw pillow on your neutral couch.

If you’ve been to Urbana’s Market at the Square or the Holiday Market, you’ve seen the Autumn Berry Inspired table. You can read our interview with Dustin Kelly, Autumn Berry’s owner, or you can read my thoughts on the autumn berry sorbetto (a food collaboration with Prairie Fruits Farm) if you’re looking for more information. You may have considered purchasing a jar of autumn berry jam, but balked because you were a little unsure of how you’d use it. Fear not, dear reader! I have a solution for you.

For Thanksgiving dinner, I always provide two types of cranberry sauce: Ocean Spray jellied, can lines and all, and a homemade chunky sauce. This year, I wanted to spice things up a bit. I had this small jar of Autumn Blazing Jam—autumn berry jam made with jalapeños. Spicy and tart, this jam doesn’t make for the best peanut butter companion. I had been wondering how to use it, and decided to try it with cranberries. The result was a success. This sauce was tart, and had just enough heat to make your meal a little more interesting. It wasn’t very sweet; if you’re looking for sweet and spicy instead of tart and spicy, feel free to add more sugar. Incidentally, it also makes for a good sandwich and/or cracker spread. Try it with some deli meat or cream cheese. 

This Saturday is the last chance to pick up your autumn berry jam from Urbana’s Holiday Market. If you miss their table at the market, you can also get it at Common Ground Food Co-op.

Autumn & Cranberry Sauce
Serves 6-8
* For a less spicy version, use regular Autumn Berry Jam and omit the pepper.

  • 1 bag of fresh cranberries
  • Zest of 1 orange (reserved)
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 1/3 cup of sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1 small jar autumn blazing jam (taste this for heat levels before you mix it in)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 jalapeño or Serrano pepper (optional), cut in half or diced, if you’d like to leave the pepper in the sauce (leaving seeds and pith will make it spicier)

Wash your cranberries. Once they’re dry, grab a handful or two and give them a rough chop. Put aside.

Place the remaining cranberries (whole) in medium saucepan set at medium heat. Add juice of one orange, sugar, ½ jar (or more to taste) of autumn blazing jam, pinch salt. Add pepper if using.

Once the whole cranberries begin to burst or wilt down, add your chopped cranberries. Taste for spiciness. If it’s too spicy, take the pepper out.

Bring to simmer, stirring at regular intervals until desired thickness (about 5-8 minutes). If it gets too thick, add the juice of ½ an orange or a little bit of water. Keep in mind that it will thicken as it cools.

Remove the pepper if you left it in two large pieces.

Add a pinch of cinnamon. Give a stir. Taste your cranberry sauce. Adjust seasoning accordingly. Let cool.

Before serving, sprinkle orange zest on top. Serve at cold or at room temperature. 

Happy holidays!