Cranberry Ketchup is the best holiday condiment you’ve never heard of

Sweet, sour, spicy, and most of all, unbelievably delicious.

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Cranberry ketchup with star anise and brown sugar
Photo: Mizina (Getty Images)

Ever since I made cucumber ketchup this past summer, I’ve been ketchup-crazy and loving it. Since we keep a mostly meat-free house, dinners often involve chopping up a ton of vegetables, roasting them with extra-crispy tofu, and serving them with a fine selection of sauces and condiments. And when you make your own crazy-easy condiments, eating a big plate of tofu and vegetables never gets old. That’s why you should try making cranberry ketchup today.

For those who have yet to try my recipes for cucumber or mushroom ketchup, allow me to give you a brief primer before you head into the kitchen to make this cranberry ketchup. (Which you certainly will, because it’s irresistible.)

Today, the word “ketchup” is synonymous with tomato ketchup, but ketchup was once made out of all sorts of ingredients, like oysters, nuts, and whatever other edible things people could gather from their neck of the woods. By heavily salting these foods to extract their liquids, blending with spices and vinegar, and boiling the mixture down to a concentrated paste of intense flavor, they could be preserved indefinitely and used to add pizzazz to simple hearth-cooked meals.

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Cranberry ketchup was invented long before tomato ketchup arrived on the scene in the 19th century. Ketchup was a popular condiment in England, and when colonists arrived in New England, they used those tried-and-true cooking techniques to preserve native foods like the cranberry.

Refrigerated, this ketchup can last for months, though I doubt that will be much of a concern once you taste it. Serve this cranberry ketchup on grilled chicken, turkey sandwiches, gamey meats like duck or venison, fancy grilled cheeses, or simply roasted vegetables.

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Cranberry Ketchup

  • 2 (12-oz.) bags fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 medium red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup red or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise pods
  • 3 pieces fresh ginger, 1/2" thick
  • 2 tsp, kosher salt

Mix the cranberries, water, and onions in a large saucepan and bring to a boil; cover, reduce head to medium-low, and simmer for about 15 minutes until the cranberries have popped. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture until relatively smooth.

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Add the vinegar, sugars, cinnamon, star anise, ginger, and salt to the pan and stir well. Increase the heat and bring it to a near boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes until the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape when scooped with a spoon. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then give the ketchup a taste, adding more salt/sugar/vinegar/spice as you see fit. (Note that the flavors will intensify as the ketchup sits, so no need to go overboard! Just gently tweak to make it the perfect balance of sweet and sour for your palate.)

Remove and discard the cinnamon, star anise, and ginger. If you care to, run the ketchup through a fine mesh strainer or food mill to make it completely smooth (entirely optional), then pour into a glass jar and refrigerate.