Cumberland Sauce Recipe

Your holiday ham just got an upgrade.

A plate of sliced ham and mashed potatoes with a white serving dish of Cumberland sauce.

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Why It Works

  • Boiling the citrus rinds helps soften them and remove bitterness from any remaining pith.
  • The combination of red currant jelly, port, Dijon, and ginger creates a sauce that's tart and fruity but not overly sweet.

I've always possessed an insatiable appetite for ham, a desire that only became more ravenous after my parents made the decision to keep a kosher home. Even 15 years since the lifting of that dietary restriction, my taste for ham has lessened not one bit after making up for lost time with heavy ham consumption. Whenever I see one of those sweet and salty hunks of pork adorning a holiday table, I attack it with such speed that you would think I had not eaten for months (my wife says I "hoover" the ham)—and never once have I stopped to think that sauce could make it even better.

Writing a Sauced column made me take a step back and consider a sauce for ham, even if it's already one of the most delicious things on the planet on its own. Racking my brain and scouring recipes for what would best complement that sweet and succulent meat, I came across a good answer: Cumberland sauce.

Cumberland sauce is a British condiment, dating back to the late 19th century, and commonly consists of red currants, port, orange, lemon, mustard, and ginger. This combo sounded like a great accompaniment to ham, and a fitting sauce for a Christmas dinner, so I gave it a try.

I wasn't left disappointed—the reduced sauce became a vibrant fruity mixture that was semi-sweet, but more heavily tart, and found a great balance when paired with my brown sugar and mustard glazed ham. Most important to me was that it didn't detract from the natural "hammy" flavor, but actually added a new complexity that I had never conceived of before. Old habits die hard, though, and even after happily finishing a generous plate of ham slices with the Cumberland sauce, I went straight back to the carving board and stood there, unable to stop myself, picking and eating any remaining meat from the bone.

December 2012

Recipe Facts

Active: 45 mins
Total: 45 mins
Serves: 16 servings
Makes: 2 cups

Rate & Comment


  • Rind from 1 orange, finely julienned

  • Rind from 1 lemon, finely julienned

  • 1 cup Ruby port

  • 1 (12-ounce) jar red currant jelly

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice from 2 to 3 oranges

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice from about 2 lemons

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger


  1. Fill a small saucepan with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Place orange and lemon rinds in boiling water and blanch for 5 minutes. Strain rinds from water.

    Strips of lemon and orange rinds simmering in water for Cumberland sauce.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  2. Return now empty saucepan to stove and add port, red currant jelly, orange juice, lemon juice, mustard, and ginger. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking to combine. Reduce heat to a rolling simmer, stir in lemon and orange rinds, and cook until sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to a week, warming prior to use.

    Closeup of a spoon covered in ruby-red Cumberland sauce.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Special Equipment

Small saucepan, fine-mesh sieve

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
24 Calories
0g Fat
6g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 24
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 49mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 16mg 80%
Calcium 12mg 1%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 87mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)