Forget the canned cranberry sauce this year and make your own!
While cranberries are probably not the most wasteful thing on your Thanksgiving menu, you can still opt for a plastic/aluminum free version by grabbing bulk cranberries from your local co-op.
I was never a fan of cranberry sauce, the canned kind or even the homemade versions. It's always way too tart and leaves that bitter tang on the back of your tongue.
That is, until we tried making it with a special twist. Instead of using water we use cider and orange juice, which helps to mellow out the bite of the cranberries. The bourbon is optional, however I definitely recommend trying it because it adds a really nice complexity to the sauce. If you're worried about the alcohol content, just add the bourbon earlier, this will allow the alcohol to cook off and simply leave the boozy flavor.
This recipe calls for an optional vanilla bean, which you can also grab from the bulk spice section of your local co-op. Vanilla beans can be a bit tough to find at times but they're one of those ingredients I wouldn't be without. We bought ours in bulk and keep them in the freezer. They're the perfect addition to homemade ice cream and whipped cream, plus it's a breeze to make your own vanilla extract by infusing them in some vodka or brandy for a month or two. If you do decide to use a vanilla bean, be sure to cut it in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds out into your cranberry mixture. The seeds are where all the flavor lives, so this step is a must!
The apple cider can be a bit tricky to find plastic free around here; we made our own this year by juicing a bunch of apples from my father-in-law's tree and simmering it for an hour or so with a bunch of yummy spices. If you don't have access to a juicer you may be able to find some packaged in glass at the co-op. We added cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, star anise, juniper berries, sliced fresh ginger, and a few peppercorns, all of which we purchased in bulk from our co-op. If you can't find apple cider and don't feel like making your own, you can certainly substitute water. If you do this I would recommend adding a bit more brown sugar to compensate for the lack of sweetness; that is unless you're a big fan of tart cranberry sauce.
You can also substitute your favorite liquor in place of the bourbon. I'd suggest whiskey, brandy, or rum as these all have that warm, oaky flavor that blends so well with this recipe. This time I used some brandy and a bit of an apple infused whiskey I made earlier this year (we had a lot of apples to use up!). I also love the extra kick from the bourbon, so I take my sauce off the heat and let it cool a bit before adding it in; follow your heart here and taste as you go.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do, and that it inspires you to try exploring creative ways in which you can reduce your kitchen waste this Thanksgiving.