Hibiscus, known for its beautiful color and cranberry flavor, takes the traditional cranberry sauce recipe up to a whole new level with this Spiced Cranberry-Hibiscus Sauce. Serve it at your holiday table this Thanksgiving season.
Spiced Cranberry-Hibiscus Sauce…a Once a Year Treat
Once a year around November, fresh or frozen cranberries make it into the marketplace. I stock up because Spiced Cranberry-Hibiscus Sauce is one of my favorite sauces. Perfect as a tart/sweet side condiment and even more amazing smothered on a leftover turkey sandwich.
Literally, this is the one sauce I prepare for leftovers in mind. Unfortunately, in our home, you almost have to hide it in the back of the refrigerator if you want to guarantee there is a spoonful leftover. There is nothing worse than craving a turkey sandwich smothered in cranberry sauce only to find the container in the sink…someone beat you to it. Ugh! The remedy? Double the recipe and freeze it so you can enJOY it all winter long.
Cranberries have long been a favorite of mine. Not only are they a beautiful crimson-red color, but they are so good for you. Cranberries are loaded with nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber. Additionally, they are amazing for oral health, preventing UTIs in women, and are even said to be great for helping lower blood pressure and cardiovascular health.
How Do Cranberries Grow?
Now if you know me, I am not content just preparing and eating my favorite foods. I am a connector, and connectors…connect. Ultimately, I love to know where my food comes from, who grows or raises it, and what makes a particular ingredient so special.
Cranberries have one of the most unique processes of growth and harvesting which just adds to the beauty of the season as well as what makes this particular berry so special. I also love the generational aspect of the farms they grow on. The video below gives you a glimpse into the life cycle of the cranberry and how it goes from bush to bog to bowl.
Usually, I order my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs but this year, to my surprise, while ordering my weekly pickup from Red Thread Farm, I noticed Jeremy had Roselle Hibiscus for sale. This variety, also known as red or Jamaican sorrel, can be used for culinary purposes by enJOYing the red flavorful calyces it produces as soon as the blooms wither and fall off. Used mainly as a delicious tea (hot or iced) with a similar flavor to cranberries, hibiscus is tremendously cooling, hydrating, and comforting, loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants, and is great for decreasing inflammation.
So why do you need to add hibiscus to your cranberry sauce? You don’t. Technically, you could make this recipe without the hibiscus, but hibiscus compliments the cranberries beautifully and adds a depth of color and flavor as well as health benefits to this sauce. If you have dried hibiscus around, then I would encourage you to try it. I tend to focus on a handful of my favorite herbs and build my recipes from them. Fortunately, I use hibiscus as a refreshing year-round tea, in my Artichoke, Hibiscus, & Orange Bitters, as well as my Citrus & Pine Winter Shrub, so I keep it on hand.
Hibiscus & Spice Infusion
The goal with a hibiscus and spice infusion is similar to the philosophy behind a tea bag. You want to infuse the syrup with the rich color and flavor of your spices as well as the nutritive properties of these beautiful healing foods without having to fish out the crunchy bits after the cranberries have cooked down.
Ultimately, this is the step that sets this recipe apart from ordinary cranberry sauce recipes. Truthfully, it is also the most beautiful step in the process. I love to watch the liquid transform into the most gorgeous candy apple red color from the hibiscus. All it takes is a little cheesecloth and some kitchen twine or a large reusable teabag. Personally, I love to create these little cheesecloth bundles of herbs and spices and tie them with kitchen twine as I do with my Bouquet Garni in my homemade chicken broth recipe. It just feels so colonial and festive.
- 1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 whole cardamom pods
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 cup filtered water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- zest of 1 organic orange
- Place the hibiscus, clove, cardamom, and cinnamon sticks in a piece of cheesecloth tied into a tight bundle with kitchen twine.
- In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring the orange juice, water, and sugar to a boil.
- Once the liquid is boiling, add in the hibiscus spice bundle and boil for 5 minutes more.
- After 5 minutes, add in the cranberries and orange zest (do not remove the bundle).
- Reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook for 8 minutes longer until all the cranberries have burst.
- Remove bundle from pan and allow to cool a bit before you press out any of the remaining liquid back into the cranberry sauce.
- Stir sauce to break open the berries, pressing them against the backside of a spoon until you reach your desired consistency.
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Hibiscus Flowers from Mountain Rose Herbs