Cranberry sauce is associated mostly with the fall and winter holiday season in the Northern Hemisphere. Made from an exceptionally tart berry that belongs to the blueberry family, cranberry sauce requires a variety of ingredients to enhance its palatability. Some of the best cranberry sauce spices are listed below.
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One of the most important sweet spices, cinnamon is an essential ingredient for cranberry sauce and other sweet cranberry preparations. The cinnamon used can be either true cinnamon (Ceylon cinnamon) or cassia cinnamon (Chinese cinnamon).
The form of cinnamon usually used in cranberry sauce is the stick form, but the powder can work in a pinch. It is common to see cinnamon included in fruity seasonal preparations like mulled wine and apple pies. Cranberry sauce offers a similar combination of spicy, sweet, and tart flavors.
A rhizome that originated in Asia, ginger is another spice that is associated with the winter season in the West. It is one of the traditional additions to cranberry sauce and cranberry relish. The sweet fragrance and peppery bite of fresh ginger pair nicely with the acidity of the cranberries as well as the assertive pungency of other warm spices like cinnamon and allspice.
Best known for providing one of the main flavors in Jamaican jerk dishes, allspice is also a popular spice for sweet dishes in the United States and parts of Europe. It shows up in apple pie spice recipes for fruit jams in addition to cranberry sauce. The clove-like flavor of allspice gives a sweet complexity to the tart fruitiness of cranberries.
A spice from Southern Asia, nutmeg also grows in the West Indies. It comes from the seed from the fruit of the Myristica fragrans plant. The West Indian version of the spice is considered more flavorful than the Indian versions.
Nutmeg is primarily used in cranberry sauce, where its nuttiness and sweetness enhance its sweetness. Nutmeg also pairs well with cinnamon and other spices commonly used in cranberry sauce. Other dishes that use nutmeg, including pies, muffins, and cakes, can also benefit from adding the spice.
Cloves are another spice that you will find in many traditional cranberry sauce recipes. Cloves are dried flower buds from a tree that grows naturally in Indonesia.
The clove flavor has eucalyptus-like notes, along with suggestions of other warm spices, including black pepper and cinnamon. There is also a slight bitterness. Some cranberry sauce recipes use the clove flavor to give the tart condiment a little spicy complexity.
Like most dishes that use cranberries, cranberry sauce depends heavily on a sweetener. While refined white sugar is sometimes used, brown sugar is another popular option. Because it consists of white sugar and molasses, it might be your best choice if you want something that provides more than just plain sweetness. Brown sugar will give cranberry sauce and other similar preparations depth via its subtle caramel notes.
Most cranberry sauce recipes will also include zest from at least one citrus fruit, but some have more than one. Most commonly, you will see orange zest, sometimes lemon zest, or both. Others have the juice to go along with the zest. In any case, one of the essential background flavor notes of cranberry sauce is the sweet fruitiness of citrus.