Homemade Cranberry Pear Sauce
Cranberries are amazing. These little jewels are full of antioxidant properties, which are great for your health. The more of these dark colored beauties you can eat, the better! Cranberries have natural anti-inflammatory properties and are known to fight cancer, making them supreme powerhouses of nutrition.
Cranberries often get a bad rap due to their tart flavor. You probably wouldn’t just pack a bunch of these potent berries as a snack. There are great ways to use them, including this Harvest Squash with Millet and Cranberries, where you can slightly sweeten the berries. Combining them with savory ingredients allows cranberries to add a perfect pop of flavor.
Another popular way to eat cranberries occurs around this time of year when we celebrate Thanksgiving. While we know that whole cranberries contain fantastic health benefits, canned cranberry sauce, sadly, does not. Yes, there are cranberries in canned cranberry sauce, but the leading brand here in the US also contains high fructose corn syrup. In fact, this popular brand has three ingredients: cranberries, high fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup. Wait, what? Two of the three ingredients are corn syrup? Hmm…
However, even the homemade recipes that I found contained gobs of sugar to offset the tartness of the cranberries (at the minimum, I saw around 2 cups of sugar.) So I set out to create a healthier version of cranberry sauce that was homemade and also contained less sugar -- no easy feat!
To sweeten this sauce, I chose to use pears and maple syrup. Pears are soft and sweet, yet have a low Glycemic Load, making them a great choice for adding sweetness without severely affecting your blood sugar. Keeping the skin on the pears adds fiber and also helps to keep the glycemic load down for this fruit, so don’t peel the pears before adding them to your sauce.
Maple syrup, while still a sweetener, has been found to have a smaller impact on your overall blood sugar compared to cane sugar. It has also been found to have some antioxidant properties and in some studies has been shown to help prevent cancer (read more benefits for maple syrup here.) I used a small amount in this recipe, only 3 TBSP for the whole batch, so this is primarily used to curb some of the tartness of the cranberries without adding a lot of unnecessary sweetener.
This Thanksgiving, let’s skip the cans and whip up this super easy (and delicious!) version at home. You can make it ahead of time to save some time cooking on Thanksgiving Day and leave the canned version on the shelves. Keep in mind that some family members may not be psyched about it, but you can feel better knowing you are contributing to their health instead of filling them up with high fructose corn syrup. For that, they should be grateful.
Cranberry Pear Sauce
Makes about 2 cups
1 12-oz bag of fresh or frozen whole cranberries, washed and any stems removed
2 ripe pears, washed and diced (leave the skin on)
Juice and Zest of ½ lemon
¼ c filtered water
3 TBSP maple syrup
Add cranberries, pears, lemon zest, lemon juice and water to a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Stir occasionally and allow to heat until all fruit is soft and broken down (this will take approximately 20 minutes.) Mash berries and pears slightly in the pan to break down any large chunks. Stir in maple syrup and heat for an additional 2-3 minutes. Allow sauce to cool a bit before serving. Serve warm or chilled alongside your favorite dishes!
TIP: This sauce is still a bit tart. If you really need it sweeter, add an additional TBSP of maple syrup, but don’t go crazy. The idea here is that you can taste the cranberries -- the tartness pairs well with most other Thanksgiving dishes!