This Thanksgiving, make the side dishes the star

Spiced Cranberry Jam, a kicked-up Thanksgiving side that you can use to substitute cranberry sauce.
Spiced Cranberry Jam, a kicked-up Thanksgiving side that you can use to substitute cranberry sauce. TNS

You can roast it, grill it, fry it or fricassee it, but at the end of the day it’s still just turkey.

On Thanksgiving, the turkey is never the star — or if it is, you’re doing something wrong.

That’s why I’m turning my attention to the side dishes. The turkey may lie there blandly on the plate, but with a little bit of attention the side dishes can truly soar.

I don’t like cranberry sauce.

But I do like jam. And a freshly made jam is fancier than cranberry sauce anyway. So I made cranberry jam.

This was easy. Cranberries contain a lot of pectin, so the jam sets up like a dream. They are also tart, so it gives you a good excuse to add a lot of sugar. Apple cider provides a welcome tang, and the juice and zest from a lemon and a couple of oranges deliver a subtle citrus kick.

What makes this jam better than ordinary cranberry sauce, other than the fact that it is not cranberry sauce, are the spices. Ginger, cinnamon and cloves combine to give the jam a nice wintery, home-like feel of the holidays.

Which makes the jam extra special, because you are sure to have plenty of it left over (the recipe makes more than a half gallon). Come Christmas time, what better present for your family and friends than a jar of homemade cranberry jam?


Yield: 5 pints

3 pounds (48 ounces) fresh cranberries

3 cups granulated sugar

3 cups apple cider

1 lemon, zested and juiced

2 oranges, zested and juiced

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1. Prepare a boiling water bath at least 1 or 2 inches higher than the height of the jars you will be using. Place lids in a small sauce saucepan, cover with water and bring to a bare simmer. Rinse the cranberries in cold water.

2. In a very large pot over high heat, combine the cranberries, sugar, cider, lemon zest and juice and orange zest and juice. Bring to a boil, skimming off the foam on top. Cook 10 to 15 minutes, until the cranberries pop.

3. Add the ginger, cinnamon and cloves, and stir to combine. Continue to cook, stirring regularly, until the jam looks quite thick. If it appears to be thickening too much before all the cranberries have popped, add a splash of water to loosen.

4. Carefully ladle jam into jars while it is still hot, leaving about 1/4 inch space below the top. Wipe off the inside rims, apply the lids and rings (don’t tighten the rings too tight), and place in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the water and allow to cool. Once they are cool, press each lid in the center; if it pops back up, refrigerate and eat within a few days.

Per 2-tablespoon serving: 42 calories; no fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; no protein; 11 g carbohydrate; 9 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 1 mg sodium; 2 mg calcium.

Recipe adapted from