Friday, November 16, 2018

Cranberry Pie

Thanksgiving is looming, and since I live in Massachusetts, that means cranberries. I think I mentioned I live only a mile or two from the nearest bog, and it’s hard to go anywhere around here (including toward Cape Cod) without passing more of them.

Luckily cranberries work well in a wide range of recipes. They’re both tart and sweet, so you can use them in either sweet or savory recipes. And it’s really hard to mess them up.

I was happy to find a very impressive four-page color spread for holiday pies in this past weekend’s New York Times. Not only do the recipes sound tasty, but they’re beautiful to look at (if you’re cooking for a crowd, plan ahead because they do take a bit of time to assemble!). 

I’ve always been pie crust challenged (despite the fact that I own several rolling pins). I bought my first food processor years ago when I was living in student housing, mainly because I came home on a bus listening to two people discussing how using one had changed their attitude toward pie crusts. I’ll admit it made a real difference mostly in terms of texture, since most recipes share the same short list of ingredients: flour, salt, butter and ice water. I think you can guess what the steps are. And if you don’t have the time or patience to make your own crust, the frozen pre-made ones aren’t bad.

But it was the cranberry pie filling that drew me in. Start with making a crust recipe large enough for a top and bottom, that will cover the lovely red filling so that just a bit of color peeks through.

Cranberry Pie Filling (adapted from the recipe by Erin Jeanne McDowell, who wrote The Fearless Baker

Note: once again I made a half-recipe, since I didn’t want to eat cranberry pie for a week straight.


2-1/2 pounds cranberries, fresh or frozen and thawed
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
pinch of salt
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract


Prepare the pie crust of your choice and chill while you’re making the filling. I used a crust recipe I’ve had for years, which has a bit of sugar in it to offset the tartness of the cranberries.

In a medium-size pot over medium heat, combine the cranberries, orange zest and juice, sugar, spices and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries soften, about 10-15 minutes.

Blend the mixture with an immersion blender (which I just happen to have because I bought one at a neighbor’s yard sale for three dollars, and I have used it regularly), or in a regular blender or food processor (do not overblend). Return to the heat and cook, stirring regularly, until the mixture thickens (about 8-10 minutes).  Add the vanilla and almond extracts, mix, and let cool.

Pour into a prepared crust, and add the top crust (with some perforations). Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for 45-50 minutes, until the top crust is golden. I have a large collection of cookie cutters (including a lovely cow) but alas, none of them are suitable for Thanksgiving, so I used small maple and oak leaves instead, for an autumn theme. 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

And coming soon--a holiday novella! Watch for further information.


  1. I love cranberry pie and will be making one for this Sunday's family pre Thanksgiving dinner. I sprinkle on a bit of natural sugar on to the top crust before baking for a little extra "sparkle" and nice color. I live your leaf cut outs. I don't think I have any that small. Nice touch.


    1. I'm addicted to cookie cutters (along with a lot of other cooking items). I have a few very nice skulls for Halloween, and the usual Christmas shapes, and of course all-purpose round and square and triangular ones, plain and with fluted edges. I can't resist them.

  2. What a pretty pie! I think when the top crust has a design or cutouts, it makes it so special! Thank you for sharing the recipe. I have always wanted to see a cranberry bog in person. I would be awed by them!

    1. I've lived in this area for over fifteen years, and I've never managed to observe a cranberry harvest, despite my good
      intentions. I know it involves flooding the bogs so the cranberries rise to the top, but that's about all I know. Maybe next year . . .

  3. Beautiful holiday pie, Sheila, and the flavor combinations are grand. Marc and I wish you and your loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving.

  4. How very pretty.
    My mother perfected an uncooked cranberry relish (cranberries, whole orange, whole lemon {well, half of one}, and sugar into the food processor). It's beautiful.
    This pie sounds like a fun recipe to try.

  5. I adore cranberries but have never thought to bake them in a pie. Mind blown. And the pie looks charming, too!