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Homemade Gravy and Cranberry Sauce: Is it Worth the Time?

By Christina Ossa

Volume 2 Issue 2

November 19, 2021

Homemade Gravy and Cranberry Sauce: Is it Worth the Time?

Original photography by Christina Ossa

Thanksgiving is a time for sharing, reflecting on your gratitude, and enjoying fantastic food. However, the star of Thanksgiving is usually turkey, a delicious, juicy, and flavorful tradition of this time of the year. The sauce that pairs with turkey would usually be a tasty, savory gravy or a more bittersweet cranberry sauce to add to the quality of each slice of turkey. But, with many dishes already having time put into them, there’s usually no time left to make either of these delicious sauces from scratch. As a result, many households opt for store-bought versions of cranberry and gravy sauce. And for many of you, I’m sure this goes for your family as well. While I agree, yes, it is convenient and consumes less time, but it tastes bland and underwhelming. So, is making these sauces from scratch really worth your time? Here, I’ll try my best to convince you that once you switch from store-bought gravy and cranberry sauce, you’ll likely never turn back.

Last year, out of pure curiosity from a recipe I saw on YouTube, I was inspired and tried making my own cranberry and gravy from scratch. Did it take more of my time during the holidays? Yes, it did. Was it worth that time? In my opinion, it was. When I made the cranberry sauce, all I needed were these ingredients: sugar, water, an orange, and cranberries; also, it only took 15 minutes. I added my ingredients to a medium saucepan and let it simmer on low for about 15 minutes (you could simmer it for longer if you feel like the cranberries are not reduced enough). On my first taste test, the cranberries were reduced to a beautiful jam-like color and tasted bittersweet and flavorful. The texture tasted like a more bittersweet version of raspberry jam. It did not have that artificial aftertaste that I’ve found store-bought cranberry sauce leaves. Next, I refrigerated my sauce in a glass container overnight and served it the next day. Once you refrigerate the sauce, it turns into a beautiful jello-type texture that melts onto the turkey once you place it onto your plate. This recipe is very low-maintenance, and it produces a mouth-watering result all in 15 minutes - and can be prepared the day before. If you’re not satisfied with the more artificial flavor of store-bought cranberry sauce and have just a mere 15 minutes to spare: I’d recommend you try this recipe. If you don’t bake or cook anything for Thanksgiving, this recipe would be an excellent addition to bring to someone who’s hosting. It also takes less time than almost any Thanksgiving recipe I’ve tried.

The gravy sauce was also way better than any store-bought or even restaurant-style gravy I’ve tried before. It was rich, packed with flavor, and kept the integrity of the turkey. It only added to the taste of the turkey, and when paired with the bittersweet flavor of the cranberry sauce, created an impressive depth of flavor. This recipe does take a bit more work but is so worth the time it takes, in my opinion. This recipe also includes parts of the turkey many people aren’t sure how to use or cook, including the bones and other parts of a turkey not commonly included in a Thanksgiving meal.

For this recipe, I used the neck/spine of the turkey to create my own turkey stock, along with a roughly chopped onion, roughly chopped celery, and some chopped carrots. Next, I used a medium-sized saucepan. I added my ingredients and the water I put on the stove on medium-high heat until it came to a boil. After this, I let it simmer on low for about three hours, then strained it through a sift to separate the liquid and ingredients I added for flavor-sake. Now, three hours may be a long time compared to the time it took for the cranberry sauce, but compared to the amount of time the turkey would bake in the oven, it isn’t much time at all. Also, don’t be scared of how this was only the first step for the gravy because I promise making the stock is the hardest part. Once you have your stock, take either the same or a different saucepan and add/melt your butter in it. After the butter has completely melted, put in the flour and stir generously. This part of the gravy process is probably the most crucial. You’re creating what’s called a roux in the culinary world: the base to making almost any thick, more creamy-based sauce. After you have a roux, which should look almost like light-colored caramel, add your turkey stock and whisk until it thickens to the point where it should lightly drizzle off a spoon. If you’d like to be fancier, you could also season it with salt and pepper and add herbs like thyme for extra flavor. While the process of creating gravy is a lot more time-consuming than cranberry sauce, it most definitely is worth it. In the end, it may be cheaper than buying store-bought gravy, and it tastes so much better than store-bought. The sauce is creamy, flavor-packed with that delicious broth created straight from the turkey. It’s almost like the turkey’s partner in crime since they were both made from the same source. Paired with the cranberry sauce, it’s a bittersweet-savory wonderland of flavor.

So, in the end, was it worth the time to create these two sauces for scratch? In my opinion, it was. It usually is either way since store-bought sauces. And store-bought items, in general, are packed with artificial flavors and preservatives that muddy the overall flavors each item is attempting to achieve. Also, when making this recipe last year for Thanksgiving, it was more rewarding than anything. The feeling of showing your gratitude through adding to the family Thanksgiving meal was gratifying to me when my family tried my food last Thanksgiving. So you should try making one of these sauces for Thanksgiving if you’d like to add something to your family dinner. They’re both very straightforward and delicious recipes. No matter your skill level in cooking, your family would likely appreciate this small yet delightful addition to the Thanksgiving meal.



Turkey Stock:

-Replace for pre-made turkey stock


-Turkey Spine                                   -Turkey Neck

-1 Onion, roughly chopped               -1 Carrot, roughly chopped

-1 Rib of Celery, roughly chopped    -6 Cups of Water (enough to cover ingredients)

Actual Gravy:

-3 ½ tbsp Unsalted butter                 -3 ½ tbsp All-Purpose Flour

-2 ½ cups Turkey Stock (either from premade or original)

-Salt (to taste)                                  -Pepper (to taste)

-Fresh Chopped herbs (to taste)


-Ask for the spine/neck of the turkey from whoever is cooking the turkey, or if you are yourself, remove the spine/neck (also, you could use both or either one, both would lead to more flavor)

-Place the spine/neck into a medium saucepan along with your vegetables, then add your water

-Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and check on it until it comes to a boil (roughly 10-15 minutes)

-After it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 3 hours

-Strain with a sifter or strainer, separating the liquid from the other ingredients (you could either dispose of the rest or find another purpose for the vegetables, the spine/neck is usually inedible, but there may be methods to use it that I’m unaware of)

-Set aside broth to make gravy

-Take a different or the same saucepan (make sure it’s empty, of course) and melt the butter over medium-low heat

-Once the butter has melted, add the flour and whisk thoroughly until it forms a roux/a combined state (it should be a bit thick and gravy-grey colored once it reaches the right consistency)

-To the roux, add your turkey stock and stir it occasionally until it reaches a thick consistency (should drizzle lightly off a spoon)

-Optional: add your seasonings, whisking lightly for about 2 minutes just to ensure it has combined

-Serve and Enjoy!

Cranberry Sauce:


-12 oz cranberries                              -1 Cup Granulated Sugar

-Zest and Juice of 1 Orange/Lemon (orange would give a sweeter flavor)

-½ Cup Water


-Grab a medium saucepan and add your cranberries, sugar, and water

-Zest 1 orange over the pan

-Once zested, slice it in half and juice it into the rest of your ingredients

-Allow your sauce to simmer over low or medium-low (depending on the size of your stoves, I’d recommend using one that will reach the entire length of the bottom of the pan) for 12-15 minutes

-Once reduced and the juices are seemingly seeping and forming a jelly-like texture, remove the saucepan from the heat and transfer the sauce to a glass container (or plastic but first wait for it to cool if you use plastic)

-Store in your refrigerator overnight (I’d recommend making this recipe the night before thanksgiving or a couple hours before you’re going to eat)

-Serve and Enjoy!

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