Cooking from the Bar Cart: Sauced Cranberries with Ruby Port

Fortified wine tempers the tartness of fresh cranberries in a sauce that makes more than turkey sing


I love cranberries, cranberry juice, songs by the Cranberries, and cranberry sauce. However, slathering the latter on turkey isn’t my favorite way to use it. Still, I always make it at Thanksgiving for the cranberry-sauce-on-turkey lovers at the table—it beats the canned stuff by a mile—and I look forward to all the other creative things I can do with it. 

Cranberry sauce variations are many. In this recipe, simmering fresh cranberries with aromatics, spices, brown sugar instead of granulated, and ruby port, a sweet fortified wine with high alcohol and ample acidity, tames the fruit’s puckering pungency, producing a more complex, versatile mix. Ruby port is less expensive than its tawny cousin and doesn’t muddy the sauce’s vibrant hue. Look for bottles labeled “reserve” from Portugal’s Duora Valley for the best quality. Once opened, the port will keep for up to four months chilled. 

For these sauced cranberries, everything simmers together, and then a heaping handful of fresh berries gets folded in as the pan is removed from the heat, which gives the sauce a good mix of textures. The flavor intensifies as the sauce rests in the fridge, so prepare it a day (preferably two) before you plan to use it. And don’t relegate it to the holiday table or turkey alone. Muddle a spoonful with ice in a cocktail shaker, add vodka or gin, and shake for a flavorful jam cocktail. Substitute an equal measure of the sauce for the usual prunes in classic chicken Marbella, and it might become your default. Blanket the fatty side of a pork roast with the sauce before braising it for an easy dinner. Or just spread it on a block of cream cheese or log of chevre as you would pepper jelly or Pickapeppa sauce for a tasty appetizer in a flash.

See other recipes in our Cooking from the Bar Cart series.



  • Sauced Cranberries (Yield: about 3 cups)

    • 1 (12-oz.) bag fresh cranberries, rinsed

    • 1 satsuma or clementine, halved

    • 1 cup packed brown sugar

    • 1 large shallot, minced

    • 1 cup ruby port

    • 1 cinnamon stick

    • 1 star anise

    • 1 large thyme sprig

    • Pinch kosher salt


  1. Place the cranberries in a medium saucepan. Remove ½ cup cranberries and set aside. Squeeze the citrus halves over the berries in the saucepan and then drop the halves into the pan.

  2. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until most of the cranberries have popped and mixture is jammy, 20 to 25 minutes. 

  3. Remove the citrus halves, cinnamon stick, star anise, and thyme sprig. Stir in the reserved cranberries. Let the sauce cool to room temperature. Refrigerate to chill thoroughly, preferably 24 to 48 hours. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. 

Katherine Cobbs is a cookbook author and editor. Her recent books are Pantry Cocktails (2021), Tequila & Tacos (2020), and Cookies & Cocktails (2019) published by Simon & Schuster. She also developed recipes for Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook – Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories.