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A raisin sauce can be a sweet or sour complement to a dessert or savory main course. The sauce is usually made of raisins, an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice, and spices that balance the flavor of the raisins. Most sauces are cooked, reconstituting the dried raisins and making them tender and moist, or breaking them down into the sauce altogether. Some recipes call for a raisin sauce to accent the sweetness of the raisins, pairing them with other fruits or sugars. Many types of food, including meat dishes that include pork or chicken, can go well with this sauce.
One of the key elements in making a raisin sauce is developing the correct consistency. There are dessert recipes that call for the raisins to be soaked beforehand to soften them, while others reduce the raisins in a sugary sauce until they break down completely. Whole raisins are usually used in puddings or in breads. Heavy or savory dishes sometimes use a raisin-based sauce that is smooth, achieving this texture either by blending the raisins into the sauce or by boiling them with other ingredients and straining out the solids from the final reduction.
A simple raisin sauce that can be used for a dessert dish starts with raisins, water and orange or lemon zest. These are placed in a pan and heated until the raisins have softened and start to expand. Cinnamon and nutmeg are added in small amounts to provide a balance of flavors and an interesting undertone. The sauce is thickened with some molasses or brown sugar and then reduced until it has become smooth and thick, although parts of the raisins will still be visible. Other seasonings, such as apple or orange juice, can be used in small amounts to increase the acidity.
Savory dishes such as ham or chicken combine well with a raisin sauce. These sauces usually start with the raisins being cooked in vinegar and some water to soften them. Brown sugar is added to balance the flavors and create a sweet and sour taste. Spices such as mustard powder, allspice, nutmeg or lemon juice are mixed in with the sauce to complement the main dish. Finally, to thicken the sauce, cornstarch is added after it has been made into slurry with hot water.
Other ingredients that can help the taste of a raisin sauce include red wine that is reduced with the raisins, ginger and butter. Capers can help to make a sauce that works well with fish. Rum or cranberries can add a complex flavor to a dessert sauce. Chicken dishes can be enhanced with a sauce that includes finely diced tomatoes or pineapple.