As an American expat in Ireland, Thanksgiving falls under one of the more unique experiences. Firstly, the grocery stores are not chaotic with shoppers seeking sage, cranberries, or the elusive last-minute turkey. Secondly, Ireland’s appreciation for good food and family makes Thanksgiving a natural fit. Thirdly, life goes on without fanfare, festivities, or feasts – it’s a normal Thursday here. For all these reasons, I love Thanksgiving in Ireland!
My first year here, I had packed a tin of Ocean Spray whole cranberry sauce in my luggage just to be sure we had it for our meal. I was under the impression that cranberries were indigenous to New England and, as such, hard to find elsewhere. To this day, whenever we see cranberry anything in Ireland, my husband turns to me with a lovingly comical expression that in the early instances accompanied, “So glad you thought to bring that can in your luggage or we’d be up a creek come the holidays.” What I really should have packed was tomatillos, but that’s for another blog post.
My second year here was last year and I was sick with Mumps so not much for celebrating. Too contagious to go to my friends’ Thanksgiving pot luck dinner and really not much for chewing anyway.
Then there were eight more Thanksgivings in Ireland. As the years piled on, I learned that marking the occasion was essential for my morale, but also to teach my children what the holiday is about. Usually, I make my own cranberry sauce (it’s so easy), but for quick sandwiches, the jarred options are easier.
I found five jarred cranberry sauces in Cork City stores, priced below €5 each. They were tested both straight as a spoonful and when paired with roast turkey. Here is a run-down of the options, where to purchase, and how each tastes:
Ballymaloe Cranberry Sauce
AVAILABLE AT TESCO & ELSEWHERE
Ingredients: Cranberries (60%), Sugar, Water. Prepared with 60g of cranberries per 100g. Manufactured in Ireland.
Vibrant taste is sweet and a bit tart. Texture is chunky and juicy.
* Favorite to accompany the meal, especially good with dry turkey given the liquidity of the sauce.
Ocean Spray Wholeberry Cranberry Sauce
AVAILABLE AT TESCO
Ingredients: Cranberries (30%), Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Sugar, Water. Packed in the UK with North American cranberries.
Tart flavor. Not very much taste aside from the tanginess. Nice whole cranberries. Bright color.
Tesco Finest Wild Cranberry Sauce
AVAILABLE AT TESCO
Ingredients: Wild Cranberries (50%), Sugar, Water. Produced in the UK.
Thick jam texture with wild berry flavor. Dark and vibrant sweetness.
* Overall favorite and recommended if using this as an ingredient in something else, such as muffins or stuffing since it has a strong enough flavor to carry through to the final dish.
Tesco Cranberry Sauce
AVAILABLE AT TESCO
Ingredients: Water, Sugar, Cranberries (28%). Produced in the UK.
Choppy texture similar to marmalade. Watery flavor with mild tangy aftertaste.
Janet’s Country Fayre Cranberry Sauce
AVAILABLE AT QUAY CO-OP
Ingredients: Crannberries [Sic] (60%), Sugar, Water. Handmade in the Country. Co. Wicklow.
This one was not included in my taste test as I hit my budget buying the other four. However, if I could go back in time, I’d have bought this one, the Tesco Finest, and the Ballymaloe.
Though each sauce offered its own unique flavor, texture, and cranberriness, I must admit that I am partial to those that held their own alongside the turkey. I also tried using each as the cranberry ingredient in my Cranberry-Carrot Muffins. The Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce was so weak you couldn’t even taste the cranberry flavor in the final baked muffin.