So suppose you have some boring old thing like a boneless chicken breast or slice of ham or even a venison steak. All you need really is something to jazz it up. Ketchup? Mustard? Steak sauce? Worcestershire Sauce? How about homemade Cumberland Sauce? Wouldn’t it be helpful to have an easy way to make dinner more interesting as we dash between work and the school Christmas concert or a holiday party or decorating the tree?

This recipe came from my island neighbor Linda Gilles, who saw me struggle with a currant sauce using a recipe for a gravy-based sauce to which I was supposed add currant jelly. I thought it was awful and was grousing about it. Linda said she had a recipe for a currant sauce named Cumberland Sauce that she learned about years ago and promised to share it. She sent it along in an email and wrote: “I was a summer nanny for the children of a [divorced] friend of my parents. Not the easiest job, but one lasting benefit was Cumberland Sauce — he was a wonderful cook and always had this on hand — I try to, too!”

And now, I will try to keep some on hand also. It has just the right combination of sweet and sour, plus the spice and citrus flavors make it interesting. I grow red currants and always make a few jars of currant jelly and I used one of those. Once you grate the peel off the orange, use the orange for the juice.

So far I have used this sauce on chicken and venison and love it. Even though traditionally these currant sauces are supposed to be used on meat, I swear this sauce would be tasty on vanilla ice cream or plain cake.

Cumberland Sauce

Makes about two cups

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

1 tablespoon brown sugar

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon salt

1½ cup red wine or port (or a combination)

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 cup red currant jelly

1 tablespoon grated orange peel

1 tablespoon grated lemon peel

¼ cup orange juice

Combine the mustard, brown sugar, spices, salt and wine or port in a small saucepan, cover it and simmer for eight minutes. Dissolve the cornstarch in two tablespoons of cold water and add it to the pan and simmer another two minutes or so. Remove from the heat and add the jelly, grated peels and juice, stirring to blend. Store in a jar in the fridge until needed.

Looking for…

…granola bars. Patricia Curtis of North Haven wrote to say, “I have been searching for a granola bar recipe that is not too sweet and does not crumble when cut into bars or squares. There are many recipes online, have tried several, but so far I’ve not found what I’m looking for! Can you help me?” I would love this recipe, too, especially if it is not too sweet. I tried one which didn’t crumble but it was downright gummy and that is no good either. Anyone?

Send queries or answers to Sandy Oliver, 1061 Main Road, Islesboro 04848. Email: For recipes, tell us where they came from. List ingredients, specify number of servings and do not abbreviate measurements. Include name, address and daytime phone number.

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Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...