Add the cranberries, sugar, and one cup of water to a medium-size saucepan set over medium heat. When the mixture starts to boil, turn the heat down to low and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool.
Add the orange and lemon zest, apple, and pecans and stir to combine. **If you are making it ahead, don't add the apple or pecans until you are ready to serve it.
Cover the mixture and place it in the refrigerator to chill before serving.
What to serve it with?
Cranberry sauce is delicious in its own right, and as a classic holiday side dish, it pairs perfectly with main dishes such as turkey, ham, prime rib, or beef tenderloin.
Without the apples and pecans, it also makes a wonderful glaze on chicken or pork tenderloin.
Leftover cranberry sauce is also incredible on turkey or ham sandwiches, and it makes a flavorful sauce for cocktail meatballs.
Add a few tablespoons to your favorite muffin, quick bread, or pancake batter, or make cranberry maple syrup by combining it with syrup.
You can also spice up your morning yogurt by adding a tablespoon or so of leftover sauce along with a handful of granola.
Mix leftovers with softened butter for cranberry butter or mayonnaise for cranberry aioli, and a bagel topped with cream cheese and a spoonful of cranberry sauce makes a tasty treat.
Add it to your barbecue sauce next time you grill for a fun and different new taste sensation.
Can it be made ahead of time?
Yes, it keeps beautifully in the refrigerator for up to ten days or in the freezer for a month. If you are making it ahead, don't add the apple or pecans until you are ready to serve it. Allow the frozen sauce to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before adding the ingredients and serving it.
By now, I hope I have convinced you about the benefits of making your own cranberry sauce. Another plus is that you can customize the recipe to fit your family's tastes and preferences. I like to add orange and lemon zest, apples, and pecans, but feel free to personalize your sauce with any one or a combination of these other tasty additions:
Cinnamon or ginger
Scallions or green onions
Replace some of the water with orange juice, bourbon, wine, or brandy