For me, the holidays aren’t the holidays unless there’s cranberry tea. My grandmother made it every Christmas and it was a hit with the family and all of our friends. I was obsessed. I felt so special when I nabbed the recipe from my grandma, and I made the tea all the time. Everyone who tasted the tea was obsessed as well. I always thought the tea was some Lang family treasure, right down to the secret ingredient–red hots! But I went to a holiday party a few years ago and saw that they too were serving cranberry tea. And yes, their version had red hots as well. My dreams were somewhat shattered (seriously, how many people make this for the holidays? Fess up!), but I still cling to my grandma’s recipe, because I think it’s the best.
Now, let me make a distinction. Cranberry tea isn’t really tea–it’s more like a warm punch. This usually doesn’t bother people, but BFF Mark brought this tea to his Mormon family Christmas and everyone avoided it like the plague. This is not made with tea leaves, and it doesn’t have caffeine. So don’t freak out, okay?
(Oh, and ps: Frank made me take the pictures this time, and they’re really bad. There isn’t even a picture of the finished product. Boo on me.)
2 bags of fresh cranberries
3/4 gallon of water
3 cinnamon sticks
10 whole allspice
10 whole cloves
1/2 package of orange juice concentrate
1 1/2 – 2 cups of sugar*
A handful of red-hots
Wash the cranberries and pick out any duds. Add the cranberries to a large pot with the water and bring to a boil. Boil the cranberries until your hear them popping like crazy. This should be about 30 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook the cranberries for about 20 more minutes.
Add the cinnamon sticks, allspice, and cloves directly to the cranberries and continue to cook for about an hour. Really, you can do this as long as you want. If you have any errands to run, just turn the burner off and let the spices infuse. But an hour should be just enough time.
Add the orange juice concentrate while the heat is still on medium. Stir until incorporated. Turn the heat off and add the sugar. You can start taste-testing at this point to determine if you need any more sweetness or orange juice, but you really shouldn’t cook the tea any more once the sugar is added.
Now you’ve got to strain the whole thing! Take a fine mesh strainer and place it over a bowl (preferably something with a spout) and strain all the cranberry skins and spices out from the tea. This is really messy, and you’ll probably be finding splotches of cranberry for months afterwards if you’re like me. Now here is the secret ingredient: add a handful of red-hots to the finished and strained tea. You don’t want to forget these. Now you’re free to do whatever you like. You can pour the tea in a crockpot or right back in the original pot if you want to serve it immediately (just keep it warm), or you can store it in old milk jugs (I hate putting this tea in a fancy tupperware container, because you’ll never get the spicy flavor out no matter how many times you wash it. Just reuse an old jug!) where you can keep it refrigerated for up to a week. Just reheat it any time you want to drink, and go ahead an plop in a few more red-hots. Happy holidays!
*I love the tart flavor of this tea so I prefer one and a half cups of sugar, but if you prefer your cranberries on the sweet side, by all means add more sugar to taste!