The Sweet Ingredient That Amplifies Homemade Salsa

If you have canned cranberry sauce in your grocery cart, there's a good chance it's early November. Of the 400 million pounds of cranberries that Americans consume annually, 20% (about 80 million pounds) are eaten during the week of Thanksgiving. But there's no reason we should be limiting ourselves to enjoying this American specialty for just a few days every year, especially since it can be found on many supermarket shelves year-round. Give cranberries a chance and you'll find that the intensely flavored fruit is surprisingly versatile.

Cranberries can be a great way to experiment with the flavor of both savory and sweet dishes. If you're wondering where to start, the answer is simple although maybe unexpected; salsa. The reasons why we love cranberry sauce also make cranberries work perfectly in a homemade salsa. Canned versions of cranberry sauce are an easy-to-use ingredient that offers a unique balance of sweet and tart, instantly amplifying and complimenting other flavors. That includes the complex combination of spicy and umami notes that make up a great dipping sauce.

Why canned cranberry is the ideal fruity add-in for your salsa

Raw cranberries can be extremely astringent due to the presence of tannins, the polyphenolic compounds that are generally associated with dry red wines. When it comes to canned cranberry sauce, however, the bright bitter flavor of the berries is usually tempered with some sugar. The complexity and sweetness of this sauce can have a lifting effect on a salsa that is heavy with savory ingredients and it blends beautifully with spicy elements.

Cranberry combines especially well with fresh jalapeño peppers and their smoked, dried counterparts, chipotle peppers. The sweet notes of the canned sauce mellow out the relatively mild kick of heat from the peppers. For something refreshing, jalapeños are ideal for their light, grassy taste, but canned cranberries work equally well with the smoky, earthy character of chipotles. Many different fruits — such as peaches, pineapples, and mangos — can elevate a homemade salsa, but when it comes to ease, there is nothing quicker than adding a spoonful of canned cranberry sauce for a fruity flavor boost.

Adding more cranberry sauce into your life

Canned cranberry sauce has a place on your table during any season and at any time of day. If you could use some inspiration, though, start by building a meal around cranberry salsa. Since cranberries are indigenous to North America, they pair perfectly with many other indigenous ingredients. Examples of ideal combinations can be found throughout Native American cuisine. These foods include turkey, bison, corn, squash, legumes, and mushrooms. Try pairing two, three, or even more of these ingredients together into meals like turkey taquitos with cranberry chipotle salsa. This salsa also works well with other fillings based on your dietary needs and personal preferences. You can opt for oven-fried beef taquitos or, for a meatless option, fill your taquitos with pinto beans or lentils.

The smoothness of canned cranberry sauce also makes it ideal for blending into a creamy dipping sauce. It could easily be swapped in place of salsa amarillo, for example, and served along with spicy duck skewers.

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