Makes:6 to 8 servings
As a kid, I actually liked canned cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving because it was satisfying to cut the jellied sauce into perfect slices. Plus it didn’t run all over my plate contaminating the mashed potatoes and green beans. As an adult, I still love the idea of jellied cranberries, so I added some gelatin to this recipe to give more texture to the smooth sauce, but not so much that it’s bouncy. This is also excellent on a Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich.
Place a fine-mesh strainer over a medium heatproof bowl and set it aside. If you plan to unmold the cranberry sauce, spray a 1-1/2-cup bowl, ramekin, or decorative mold with cooking spray and set it aside.
Combine the cranberries, sugar, 1/2 cup of the water, and the cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the berries are starting to fall apart and the liquid has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.
Remove and discard the cinnamon stick and pour the cranberry mixture into the strainer. Rinse out the saucepan and set it aside. Using a rubber spatula, push on the cranberry solids and scrape the underside of the strainer until all of the liquid has been extracted; set the liquid aside. (You should have about 1 cup.) Discard the contents of the strainer.
Pour the remaining 1/4 cup water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface and let it stand undisturbed until it softens, about 3 minutes (it will start to look wavy and wrinkled).
Return the strained cranberry liquid to the clean pan and stir in the gelatin mixture and orange zest. Place over low heat and whisk continuously until the gelatin has dissolved and no longer feels grainy, about 2 minutes. (Do not let the mixture simmer or the gelatin will not set properly.)
Transfer the mixture to the prepared mold and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours. To unmold, dip the mold into warm (not hot) water for about 10 seconds. Run the tip of a knife or rubber spatula between the jellied sauce and the mold to loosen the edges, then invert onto a serving dish. Return to the refrigerator to refirm if necessary, about 20 minutes.