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 chilies all in one go.
I start with a couple minced jalapeños—deseeded 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 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.