Carly's Christmas Cranberry Compote

It's just cranberry sauce, really. 

But it tastes sooooo delectable that I felt like calling it plain ol' cranberry sauce did it no justice. Plus, I'm a big fan of alliteration.

Christmas. Yep, I just dropped the C bomb in November (no, not that one; go and wash your mouth out!). It's the same date each year. We have 52 whole weeks beforehand to prepare for it. Yet for some reason, Christmas as a concept always lies dormant in my mind until suddenly it bursts into life around mid-November shouting "SURPRISE!" like a sneaky little devil. 

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I do usually manage to tame the beast, however, and by the time the children break up from school everything will be done. Gifts bought and wrapped, tree decorated, meticulous schedules and itineraries ensuring we see all the people, do all the things and go to all of the places we are meant to over the festive period... and Christmas dinner is already made.

You read that right.

I like to have my Christmas dinner prepared way ahead of Christmas Day itself.

I don't mean plated up and ready to stick in the microwave like a veritable conveyor belt of 'ping' meals. Although, if that's your thang then no judgement here - you do you. Chez Sharples, I prepare as much as possible in the run up to the big day so I am free to enjoy Christmas itself and play with my children whilst retaining the right to boast about how I cooked up a feast. It's such a magical time of year and children are only small for such a short while, aren't they? I just want to savour every possible moment.

I had this epiphany four years ago when we were expecting 13 family members for Christmas dinner. We'd just moved into this house the previous month, Sophia was only two weeks old and the other two were still really young. I was panicking about how I would be able to manage to cater for all those people with having to spontaneously breastfeed a newborn or change her nappies. By chance, I picked up a brochure from M&S whilst still heavily pregnant and discovered that they did a Christmas meal bundle where everything was ready to go and basically, you just needed to work out your oven timings. Think of their £10 meal deal but on a bigger scale and for Christmas. Perfect.

Christmas was a huge success that year and was somewhat of a revelation that you don't need to spend hours slaving over the stove on the day, like a martyr. The following year,  I took the same approach except I made it all myself. Everything can be made ahead and frozen, really. Braised red cabbage, bread sauce, pigs in blankets, parboiled potatoes tossed in goose fat, sausage and chestnut stuffing... you get the gist. I freeze everything in those foil takeaway-style containers so literally all I have to do is bung them in the oven and calculate the timings. I roast the turkey on Christmas Eve, slice and freeze half in gravy then save the other half for our Christmas meal and the all important sarnies and curry afterwards {I always buy the largest turkey I can find so that we have leftovers forever}.

Today, Sophia and I made our cranberry sauce (sorry - *compote*) and I think we've made enough to keep us going until next Christmas! I don't buy fancy new jars for this task; old Bonne Maman jam jars I've accumulated throughout the year work perfectly fine. Just make sure you sterilise them beforehand and you're good to go.

So, without further adieu, here is the recipe for Carly's Christmas Cranberry Compote. I've adjusted the quantities so that there is enough for one standard jam jar here, but feel free to amend - just alter the ratios of juice-fruit-sugar accordingly.

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Supplies

250g cranberries

100ml orange juice

100g light muscovado sugar

1/2 tsp ground ginger & same of cinnamon

Tiny pinch of ground cloves

A good glug of port

Orange zest

This is seriously one of the simplest things to make; there's no faffing around with jam thermometers or testing for wrinkles on an ice-cold plate here, people! Honestly, you'll wonder why you ever bothered with a ready made jar of sauce. 

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Pop some Michael Bublé on, pour yourself a port {it would be rude not to, while it's out anyway...} and give it a whirl - 'tis the season, after all.

Here's how:

  1. Tip the OJ and port into a saucepan.
  2. Add the sugar and spices and heat gently until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Turn the heat up and stir in the cranberries. Wait for them to start popping, then add the orange zest and turn the heat down again.
  4. Cook for 10 minutes before pouring straight into a sterilised jar. The sauce will thicken upon standing.

And that, folks, is it! 

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I pop mine in the freezer and thaw nearer to Christmas, but I would expect that this would keep well in the fridge for at least a few weeks... if it lasts that long! It would make a lovely hostess gift over the period as well; the labels I've popped on are from Flying Tiger and I would also tie some rustic hessian and some twine around the jar, just to finish it off.

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The best thing about preparing ahead for Christmas is that you still have the satisfaction of knowing you have lovingly prepared everything from scratch, but you're not flapping about it on the day. You're infinitely more relaxed because you have given *yourself* the best present: the gift of time. Time to indulge in all the other wonderful things that Christmas has to offer. Assembling new toys, building Lego and generally just being present and enjoying the moment. Spending those few hours playing a family board game and drinking sherry, rather than sweating your t*ts off mashing potatoes and whisking gravy.

As I write this, it is flurrying with snow here in Lincolnshire and I've got the Winter candle by The White Company burning. My kitten is asleep on my lap and I'm sipping hot chocolate. Cliché? Absolutely. But I'm going to soak up all this hygge and relax, kick back and enjoy the build up to Christmas. Every year, my biggest two children exclaim that "THIS IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS, EVER!" and I think that this year, they may just be right about that.

Carly xo