Why It Works
- The natural pectin in the cranberries creates a jelly-like consistency while cooking the chiles to a jammy texture.
- De-seeding the jalapeños makes for a more fruity, less spicy sauce.
- A splash of mezcal at the end adds a mellow smokiness.
Jalapeño jam has come to be my "secret ingredient" in my barbecue sauces—giving them an extra sweet, fruity, and slightly spicy boost that also thickens the sauce nicely. And though we don't normally associate spicy flavors with Thanksgiving, it's just the thing to complement a smoked turkey.
What's more, making it for Thanksgiving is even easier than for barbecue sauce; if you're making cranberry sauce, that will have enough sugar and pectin to jam up the chiles all in one go.
I start with a couple minced jalapeños—de-seeded to give the final product a more-fruity, less-spicy flavor—along with a 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, a cup of sugar, and a third of a cup of water. Instead of the usual orange juice, I use lime juice and zest, a better pairing for the jalapeños.
I bring this all to boil until the cranberries began to pop, then I smash them against the side of the pan with the back of a wooden spoon to release their pectin-rich innards. Once the sauce forms a thick gel you can remove it from the heat.
The jalapeños added their characteristic grassy touch with the same mild heat that makes jalapeño jam so great. They're great along with the tart and sweet cranberries and lime, but they need a little something extra to really shine. Since I'm serving this with smoked turkey, a little smoke is just the thing for the sauce. Mezcal is just the thing.
During testing, I served this alongside a regular cranberry sauce to a crowd of friends. There was a little trepidation at first. Did I take this classic condiment just a little too far?
Nope! Eventually everyone gravitated toward this more complex, spicy, smoky cranberry sauce that paired perfectly with a grilled turkey. Sometimes a classic benefits from fiddling.
12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons fresh juice plus 1/2 teaspoon zest from 2 limes
1/4 cup finely chopped seeded fresh jalapeño (about 2 medium chiles)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons mezcal
Combine cranberries, sugar, water, lime juice, lime zest, jalapeños, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until berries start to pop, about 5 minutes. Press berries against side of pan with a wooden spoon and continue to cook until berries have broken down and sauce thickens to a jam-like consistency, about 5 minutes more.
Remove from heat, stir in mezcal, and let cool for 30 minutes. Adjust consistency with water as needed. Serve immediately or place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
The cranberry sauce can be served cold or reheated.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 31g||11%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||6%|
|Total Sugars 27g|
|Vitamin C 10mg||48%|
|*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.|