One of the many things I love about Thanksgiving is the continuity of the menu across generations and regions.
Sure, every family and region has its own interpretation of the staples. But it is amazing to me that on one day so many Americans regardless of background sit down to roughly the same meal — turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, some sort of potato and a healthy dose of pie.
One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving is the cranberry sauce. It is one of the first recipes I developed many years ago when I was supervising the public relations side of the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line. I called it a cranberry chutney instead of a sauce because it is so thick with fruit, spices and a touch of vinegar. It is good enough to eat off a spoon.
Just be aware: The flavors are intensely American and have no resemblance to Indian chutneys.
Even though most Americans serve cranberry sauce from a can, I urge you to make this the year you try making it yourself. It's so easy and so delicious, there's no reason not to. Even if you don't use my recipe, making cranberry sauce from scratch is well worth it.
And here's one tip regardless of which recipe you use: Getting the sauce to thicken and take on the right consistency requires that the cranberries simmer for at least 10 minutes. That is how long it takes to release the pectin — the natural jelling ingredient — from the fruit. As long as you cook it long enough for the cranberries to pop, you should be good.
Here's another benefit of making homemade cranberry sauce: It can be put together days ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Another thing to check off your list.