Unlike many children, I loved cranberry jelly growing up. You know, the jiggly one from the can? Clearly, there’s always been a few screws loose in my head.
Nevertheless, I grew up to realize that not many people like cranberry jelly, which is a real shame, because cranberries are an overlooked fruit packed with antioxidants, low sugar levels, and complimentary flavors for Thanksgiving. With proper attention, cranberry jam can be a sophisticated, delicious, and complimentary spread.
To start – for my specific diet – we need to get rid of the sugar found in most cranberry sauces. While I would love to sweeten this with stevia, the crystals in sugar play an important part in creating a stable, firm but spreadable, consistency.
Alas, we must find an alternative sweetener with crystals.
Thankfully, I can think of one or two characters that fit the bill – xylitol & erythritol. For now, I’m going to focus on xylitol. As talked about previously on this blog, xylitol is an alcohol sugar, derived from hard wood. Interestingly enough, alcohol sugars are neither sugars or alcohols, rather, they’re a polyol.
Despite labrotorial names like xylitol, erythritol, and mannitol, sugar alcohols are actually derived from natural sources, such as fruits and trees, instead of chemical manipulation, as is the case with Splenda & Aspartame.
To add to the conudrum, sugar alcohols – namely xylitol – help prevent tooth decay, assist in the absorption of vitamins, and work as a prebiotic, meaning they strengthen the mucosal layer in the gut responsible for keeping good stuff inside the gut and bad stuff outside of organs. If mucosal walls aren’t strong, healthy probiots will have no effect – they’ll simply pass right through your gut wall and out the other end… if you get my drift. However, when there’s a sufficient amount of mucous, probiotics will manifest properly inside the gut, where they can do their rightful work.
That being said, xylitol can cause a considerable amount of gas if you eat a lot of it. So, if you tend to have a sensitive stomach, I suggest purchasing erythritol in place of xylitol; erythritol has the same culinary effect as xylitol, only more of it goes unabsorbed than xylitol, meaning a large percentage of erythritol passes through the body as urine, whereas most of xylitol is digested in the colon, where it can cause gas.
I describe to you this not-so-fun scientific mumbo jumbo so that we can now move past that big scary, scientific name “xylitol,” and onto the stuff that really matters.
Because cranberries pack a punch of flavor, they can stand up to red wine’s bold, tannin-y flavors, which makes them a match made in a mason jar! To balance out their tartness, I recommend that you reach for a smooth, deep red wine, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec. Unless you’re feeling like a diva, there’s no real good reason to use a wine more expensive than 15 dollars, because once heated, the nuanced flavors will no longer be noticeable. Instead, look for wines within the 10-15 dollar range that you enjoy drinking as well, because afterwards, there’ll be enough wine left for the humble cook – you.
Depending on personal preference, this jam can be made chunky, like rustic preserves, or smooth, like store-bought jams. Either way you go, you’ll have good results, but keep in mind that if you choose the smooth option, you’ll end up with a saucier jam. Thus, it’s important to add powdered pectin – a complex polysaccharide isolated from the cell walls of fruits – that’ll make your jam stable & spreadable. Despite the fancy name, pectin is likely on the shelf of your local grocery store in a place you never thought to look, as was the case with me.
Although, if buying weird ingredients for single usage isn’t your thing, go with the chunky variety, as it maintains a spreadable texture once cooled, regardless of added pectin.
This sweet, tart, red-wine infused spread is wonderful on buttery biscuits, eaten alongside your favorite Thanksgiving dishes, and excellent with the star of our next post… can you guess what it is?
We hope you enjoy our second Fall Favorite recipe of the month! If you like what your taste buds are tellin’ ya, leave behind a nice rating, share your thoughts with us in the comments, or show us your creations by tagging @noeggsorham on Instagram.
All the best,
Ryan & Kim
Cabernet Cranberry Jam
Tart cranberries are cooked down with bold red wine and sweet xylitol to form a smooth & spreadable jam. Perfect on buttery biscuits and your Thanksgiving favorites.
- 10 oz thawed, frozen cranberries
- 72 g (1/4 c + 2 tbsp) xylitol or erythritol
- 4 oz (1/2 c) red wine (Cabernet & Malbecs work well)
- 1 tsp pectin (optional)
- If smooth jam is desired, place thawed cranberries and red wine in a blender or food processor and blitz on high until smooth. If chunky jam is desired, skip to Step Two.
- Place cranberries, red wine, xylitol, and pectin (if making smooth jam) to a boil in a medium sauce pot over high heat. Bring to a boil stirring often. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- If creating chunky jam, mash cranberries with a potato masher while they’re simmering. If creating a smooth jam, the mixture will likely splatter if you’re not stirring constantly, so keep the heat at medium-low if you don’t want your kitchen to look like a scene from CSI.
- Transfer jam to mason jar or other form of airtight container and let sit – uncovered – at room temperature until cool; about 30 minutes. Then, place on a lid and refrigerate until completely chilled; about 3 hours.
- Cranberry jam will stay good for up to a week in the fridge and up to three months in the freezer. To defrost, allow to rest in the fridge overnight.