Why You Should Add Fresh Ginger To Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is a bright pop of color on a Thanksgiving table, sometimes overwhelmed with boring-colored food — mashed potatoes aren't anything exciting to look at. But variety isn't the only reason we eat cranberries for Thanksgiving dinner, nor is it the fact that they're an excellent counterpoint to the heavier foods on the table.

Cranberries are one of three commercially-produced fruits native to North America, other than blueberries and the Concord grape. The Wampanoag Native Americans would collect the berries for food, dye, and medicine, and they were more than likely on the table at the first Thanksgiving in 1621 (via History). Serving turkey alongside cranberry sauce was first suggested by Amelia Simmons in her cookbook "American Cookery" in 1796 (via Washington Post). 

But the cranberry sauce we know now, ridges and all, has been around since 1901, when the mechanical nature of cranberry harvesting damaged the berries too much to sell. So they turned them into a jelly and stuck them into a can. This also had the added benefit of extending the length of time people could buy cranberries. According to Ocean Spray, 5,062,500 gallons of jellied cranberry sauce are eaten by Americans every holiday season — 200 cranberries in each can. About 26% of Americans prefer to make their cranberry sauce using fresh berries (via Smithsonian Magazine). Whichever you prefer, adding fresh ginger could bring your cranberry sauce to the next level.

Cranberry and ginger

Sure, some prefer the cranberry sauce that slides out of the can in a wet plop and jiggles when you poke it, but if you want to rise to Ina Garten-level hosting status, make some cranberry sauce with fresh berries. With the advancements in cranberry harvesting technology and freezers, you can have it year-round. It's a low-effort side – you can make it a few days ahead of time, so you're not scrambling for space on your stove. There's also the ultra-time-saving method of simply buying a jar at the store.

To elevate your sweet, tart cranberry sauce recipe to true culinary ecstasy, Bon Appétit test kitchen director Chris Morocco has a few recommendations. Adding some grated fresh ginger to your homemade or store-bought cranberry sauce will balance the flavors, which sometimes might be too sweet. And cranberry and ginger naturally play well together. He also recommends some fresh orange zest and a pinch of salt. The extra touches will "bring out some of those other flavors" while striking the right balance (via GMA).