Be prepared to Thanksgiving and the holiday season with this delicious low-carb relish! This sweet and tart sauce, with all its intense flavors, is a perfect companion to turkey, chicken or ham. In fact, to any meat or fish.
This is a great make-ahead sauce. You can prepare it a day or two before, the flavors get even better when they can marinate for some time. Just reheat the sauce before serving so that all the tiny crystals of erythritol dissolve. If you prefer to serve the sauce cold, I give some hints how to sweeten it in that case.
|Nutrition information||Protein||Fat||Net carbs||kcal|
|In total:||1.5 g||2.0 g||13.9 g||104 kcal|
|Per tablespoon:||0.0 g||0.1 g||0.4 g||3 kcal|
|Per 1/2 dl (50 ml):||0.1 g||0.2 g||1.3 g||9 kcal|
|Per 1/4 cup (60 ml):||0.2 g||0.2 g||1.5 g||12 kcal|
Tips for preparing the sauce
This sauce is very easy to prepare. The most important thing is to grate only the orange-colored peel from the orange. Even a tiny piece of the white pith might give the sauce too bitter and pungent flavor. Always use freshly grated peel, not store-bought.
Another important thing is to sprinkle the xanthan as slowly as possible and little by little so that it doesn’t form any lumps but dissolves neatly and completely. Whisk the sauce all the time with a wire whisk while you sprinkle. Some people like to make a slurry from xanthan and water, but my slurries either turn jelly or they are disgustingly lumpy. That’s why I prefer to sprinkle the xanthan straight on the sauce, jam, or whatever I’m making.
Erythritol crystals are great if you plan to serve the sauce hot or warm. Since erythritol crystals granulate while cooling, it’s best to use powdered sweetener if you prefer to serve your sauce cold. You can naturally grind your own powdered erythritol from erythritol crystals, if you happen to own a powerful enough grinder. 1 cup erythritol crystals weighs approximately 7 oz (200 g).
I made this sauce with my favorite sweetener, powdered Zsweet, which worked like a charm in cold sauce. Absolutely no gritty feeling or crystallizing there. I used 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) powdered Zsweet to get desired sweetness. However, since erythritol crystals are more affordable, I chose those to this final recipe. Moreover, powdered Zsweet you cannot get that easily for the time being. The CEO of the company promised me that the sweetener is more widely available from the beginning of the next year.
By the way, I prefer a bit longer cooking time to release all the flavors and juices from the cranberries. Usually I still let the mixture simmer a little bit after the cranberries are cracked, the total simmering time is some 20 minutes.
So, let’s take a look of the preparation process. Place the cranberries, orange peel, water and the sweetener in a saucepan.
Start heating over high heat. Mix once in a while. When the mixture starts to boil, reduce the heat to minimum.
After some 15–20 minutes simmering, the cranberries are cracked and they have released their juices and flavors.
Sprinkle the xanthan little by little on the mixture, whisking all the time with a wire whisk. Start with 2 pinches xanthan. Add one more pinch if you prefer really thick sauce.
The ready sauce thickens while it cools down. Serve the sauce hot or warm, to prevent erythritol from crystallizing. If you store the sauce in the fridge, reheat it before serving.
My sauce experiments
For a very long time, I’ve wanted to create a recipe for cranberry sauce which I serve with poultry or ham. Now it was about the time to jot down my ideas and make some experiments.
Cranberry was the main ingredient, but what could I use in addition? At least I needed sweetener and some liquid. I was pondering whether to use liquid stevia or powdered Zsweet. Maybe I try both to see which one works best? I didn’t want to use erythritol crystals because I was afraid that they would form big, hard crystals after the sauce had cooled down.
I could have used juice — like orange juice — as liquid, but since juices usually are pretty high in carbs, I decided to use pure water. For sure no carbs there. Orange, however, sounded tempting and a great companion to cranberries. If I cannot use good old OJ because of the carb count, maybe orange peel would give the wished orangey flavor?
I suspected that water as liquid wouldn’t make the sauce thick enough, so I might need some thickener. Xanthan is one of my favorite low-carb thickeners, so I wanted to give it a try. Whether to add it in the beginning before cooking, or sprinkle it on the ready sauce, was to be experimented in practice.
First I combined 8 oz (230 g) frozen cranberries, 1 tablespoon freshly grated peel from organic orange, 1 cup (240 ml) water and 40 drops liquid stevia in a small saucepan. I heated the mixture over high heat, and reduced the heat to minimum when the mixture started to boil.
I cooked the mixture until the cranberries had cracked, some 20 minutes. Since the sauce was extremely runny and fluid, I took the saucepan from the heat and sprinkled 2 pinches xanthan on the mixture while whisking all the time.
The consistency became nicely thick. Not too thick or jelly-like, but just a little bit on the thick side to cover the meat nicely, not pouring off and leaving the meat dry and bland.
The taste then? Tart and thin, too undistinguished, with some sweetness which in turn was also somehow thin type of sweetness. What I mean is that the sweetness was far from the almighty, mouth-filling sweetness what sugar gives. I had to try if powdered Zsweet worked better.
I hardly could taste any orange, so I was planning to double the amount of orange peel. All in all, the sauce had great consistency but it was too tasteless.
I placed a little bit sauce to small coffee cups. To each cup I added some flavoring. I added for example cherry flavor and maple flavor, both of which went well with the flavors of the sauce. I just had to be really careful with the maple flavor, it was really strong. As a rule, it tastes good when used in very small amounts.
In my next experiment I combined all the ingredients — also the xanthan — in a saucepan. I threw in 8 oz (230 g) frozen cranberries, 2 tablespoons freshly grated peel from organic oranges, 1 cup (240 ml) water, 1 cup (240 ml = 100 g) powdered Zsweet and 2 pinches xanthan.
First of all, the cranberries didn’t want to burst. Maybe the xanthan prevented the process? Well, they did crack in the end, after some vigorous boiling.
The xanthan made the sauce foam profusely. Also the ready sauce was foamy, which I didn’t like. Obviously it wasn’t a good idea to add the xanthan in the very beginning but rather sprinkle it in the end.
The sauce wasn’t sweet enough. The type of sweetness was better than that with pure liquid stevia. I also thought maybe there was simply too much fluid which stole all the taste and the sweetness. I might reduce the amount of water a little bit.
Since I wasn’t completely happy with the result, I continued doing experiments. I reduced the amount of water to 3/4 cup (180 ml) and added 2 oz (60 g) more cranberries for fuller flavor. So, in total I used 10 oz (280 g) cranberries.
Very good, but that 1 cup (240 ml) powdered Zsweet wasn’t enough to give the needed sweetness. Because the cranberries were so tart, they needed a lot of sweetener to tame the tang.
If I keep everything else the same but add 1 1/2 cup (360 ml) Zsweet? That’s a heck of an amount. Maybe I simply use again 8 oz (230 g) cranberries. The smaller amount of sharpness doesn’t necessarily need that hefty dose of sweetener.
I noticed that all my experiments tasted best on the next day. After overnight refrigeration all the samples tasted pretty okay. Even that version sweetened with pure liquid stevia tasted okay. In fact, it was really difficult to decide which of my experiments tasted best and what I needed to still improve in my next experiments.
Even all the experiments tasted good, I wasn’t completely happy. I needed to do still more experiments. I simply had to try erythritol crystals if they really form hard, crystallized lumps in the cold sauce.
I used 1 cup (240 ml) erythritol crystals to sweeten 10 oz (280 g) cranberries, 2 tablespoons grated orange peel and 3/4 cup (180 ml) water. The result tasted wonderful! The cranberries tasted tart and powerful, but the erythritol compensated the intense flavors in a most pleasant way. Perfect! When the sauce was hot or warm, there was no single crystal of erythritol, but everything had dissolved nicely. However, on the next day when I took the sauce from the fridge, it was colonized by gritty erythritol crystals. What a disappointment.
I thought sweetening the sauce with powdered sweetener, such as powdered Zsweet, might solve the problem with the gritty crystals. I just had to use minimum 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) powdered Zsweet to get the desired sweetness. Actually, I could have added even a bit more, maybe even 2 cups (480 ml).
Tips for variation
If you prefer more cranberry flavor and less orange flavor, simply use 1 tablespoon orange peel instead of 2 tablespoons.
If you are not that strict with the carb count, you can replace part of the water with orange juice. For example, you can use the grated peel and juice from one organic orange. Add water to reach that 3/4 cup (180 ml) fluid. I calculated that the total carb count will be 18.5 grams with 1 tablespoon orange peel and 1/3 cup (80 ml) OJ. So, not too bad unless you follow really strict ketogenic diet.
The sauce gets even more enchanting flavor if you season it further by adding for example one of these:
- 1 tablespoon cherry flavor
- 1 teaspoon maple flavor
- 1 cinnamon stick (just remove the stick before serving).
If you use 1 cup (240 ml) erythritol crystals the result will be quite sweet. The sweetness is easy to adjust by starting with smaller amount sweetener and adding more if sweeter flavor is needed. Since all sweeteners tend to have some additional aftertaste, it might be a good idea to mix different sweeteners.