Cranberry Sauce

I love cranberry juice, I love Craisins, I really, really love cranberry cocktails, but I have never been a cranberry sauce fan.

3064763866_ceb4d8fed6Source: Flickr User busbeytheelder

Perhaps, the sight of the gelatinous mass with the ridges still intact screaming, “I’m canned, I’m canned” is what puts me off.  Well, my brother-in-law loves cranberry sauce.  As I am a good host and I’m so thankful that he’s coming, I feel the need to provide. 

Except it truly goes against my nature to serve canned gelatinous mass.  Perhaps if there were no ridges?

I have ventured into the world of homemade cranberry sauce.  A scary world I thought, like the world of homemade preserves and jams.  What can I tell you, I get scared easily.  Hello, rolling-pin?  Because you know, I really couldn’t have bought one for myself all these years.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that cranberry sauce is easy to make.  As long as you stay vigilant.

I spent all of 30 minutes on Sunday to make this sauce. Most of the time is on reducing the liquid.


No step-by-step needed really because you basically dump sugar, juice, cranberries and boil, stir, boil.


Don’t forget to stir because I forgot towards the end and winded up with a burnt bottom. I’ll spare you the horror of a ruined pot.  A tip, if you burn the bottom of a pot, add water and dish detergent and boil.  And scrape and scrape and scrape.  It will come off. Thanks Flea!

I’ll have to make this again. Even though the burnt taste is so faint that I wondered if I was imagining it, I can’t risk serving potentially burnt tasting sauce!

Soso didn’t like it. “Too sweet, mommy.” Did your jaw fall to the floor? Because mine did. This is coming from the queen of sweet tooth. If I let her, she would consume ice cream, chocolate, cakes, cookies, sugary drinks all day long.

D liked it well enough, but he’s not much into condiments. As in no ketchup for burgers and fries, no mayo for sandwiches, no mustard for hotdogs, and plain roasted turkey. He has learned over the years to appreciate a hint of Dijon mustard in his sandwiches, thanks to moi. But on the other hand, now I eat burger and hotdogs without any condiments myself.

The irony will be my brother-in-law won’t appreciate my efforts and still long for the quivering jelly.  My friend Flea, who has taste and discretion has assured me the taste of the canned jelly calls out to her soul in a way that no homemade sauce does.  Something about growing up with it from childhood.  Hey, who am I to judge?  I grew up on SPAM and even though I haven’t tasted SPAM in at least 15 years, I will always have an affinity for processed canned meat product.

As for me, I can’t see myself eating this sauce with turkey. Turkey with sweet sauce seems strange to me.  But I can see myself gobbling this up (no pun intended) spread on a piece of toast or crackers

I adapted the recipe below from Alice on Savory Sweet Life.  I added the zest of one lemon.  Since Miss Soso found the sauce too sweet, I’ll make the next batch with a little less sugar.

Cranberry Sauce

Time: 5 mins prep, 20 mins cooking

Serves: 2 cups


  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white granular sugar
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • zest, 1 lemon
  • 12 oz bag cranberries (fresh or frozen)


  • In a medium pot on medium-high heat, add the sugars,  juice and zest and stir for a minute.  Add the cranberries and bring to boil while stirring occasionally.  It is normal to hear cranberries popping.
  • Reduce heat to medium cook until the liquid is mostly reduced.  Remember to stir to avoid burnt sugar!  Remove from heat and serve immediately or at room temperature.

86 thoughts on “Cranberry Sauce

  1. So-Ho!

    Very witty post and thanks for the props! Glad to hear that the pan you sorely wanted to throw out has been spared an unsavory demise.

  2. I love the canned cranberry sauce, but most of the homemade sauces I’ve had taste even better. Good post and congratulations on getting Freshly Pressed!

    1. Thanks Maggie! I was wondering why my sleepy little blog was all of sudden getting all these hits! Wow! Thanks to all the commentors!

  3. I have always made cranberry sauce from scratch and I do not strain it…I like the texture. However, this is a different recipe than what I make. Mine does not have as much OJ, so I will give yours a go and see what I think. Thanks for sharing and have a great holiday!

  4. Thanksgiving isn’t the same without the can of cranberries. It’s like the fruitcake at Christmas, green beer on St. Paddy’s day, or the ubiquitous sweet tarts in your halloween candy. None seem too appetizing, but you eat/drink them anyway.

  5. Cranberry Sauce is perhaps one of the easiest Thanksgiving dishes to make. The other problems with canned cranberry side (aside from the ridges) is that it is loaded with high fructose corn syrup and preservatives. When making your own sauce, you can control the amount of sugar and level of sweetness. You can also choose sugar alternatives (honey, muscovado sugar, etc). Also, another thing that everyone should be concerned with is Bisphenol A. It has been linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer, obesity, just to name a few. BPA is used to line canned and pre-packaged food, which leaches into the food.
    Anyway, it’s easy to make your own cranberry sauce, and you can keep it simple or creative.

  6. I wasn’t really a fan of cranberry sauce either growing up, maybe because my family prefers theirs from a can as well. However, I had some with my mom at dinner, recently in fact, and it wasn’t as scary as I’d remembered after all these years. Maybe give it another shot? Who knows, could have been a fluke for me as well 😉

  7. Canned cranberry sauce is fine if you don’t need the added pressure of “from scratch” dishes, but this is simple enough for you to try at home.

  8. Too funny – as I was dumping out a can of gelled cranberry sauce last night, I thought about how much I simultaneously loved it and was creeped out by it. I also decided that if I hadn’t grown up eating it, I would think it was the grossest thing in the world! So now, the real debate with the canned sauce is… scoop vs. slice? It was always an argument in my household…

  9. Canned cranberry sauce? Good thing Ocean Spray started with frozen cranberries over here (UK) if they had tried the canned stuff on us as kids we would have run screaming for the hills. You can make a much faster version by adding less sugar and less liquid, ie just enough water to come half way up the fruit in the pan and then add sugar to taste when all the berries have popped, do not strain,do not add gelatine or any thickening agent. The only reason they add that to the can is to make a thinner (ie watery) product hold its shape. Alison –

  10. Love this idea. Why it never occurred to me to make my own cranberry sauce is beyond me. And look at your sleepy little blog! How fab to be Freshly Pressed! Congrats!

  11. I made something similar one year to replace the canned version, only to realize I really like the stuff from the can. I just can’t help it. I love the fact that there is a big wiggly ridged cranberry blob that looks just like the can sitting on a plate! It’s one of my favorite things at thanksgiving!

    (keep a can on hand for your Brother in law just in case!)

  12. I am in total agreement with you on cranberry molds! There is something about that texture that gives me the heebie jeebies. Oddly enough, the other day I had a “Thanksgiving Day Hoagie,” which was turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and mayo in an Italian hoagie, and it was delicious! So, I must not have a vendetta against cranberries, but just the mold they come in!

    Congrats on FP!

  13. Hurray for you for venturing into the world of homemade cranberry sauce. It really is easy, and so satisfying to have made! I just finished mine when I found your post. Another way to clean a burned pan without much scraping at all (maybe none) is to dump a bunch of baking soda in the pan with water and boil it. The burn comes right out.

  14. The canned stuff is good, though I admit the lines and gelatinousness is a bit off-putting.

    I might make some cranberry sauce myself this year, but I’ll doctor it up with probably apples, pecans, oranges and maybe raisins. It’ll be more of a fruit medley.

    Cranberry sauce, good by itself, or as a “condiment” on turkey!

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  16. This year, I made homemade cranberry sauce for the first time ever and found that I really didn’t like it on turkey. I made pork chops and served the sauce as a side, just for the heck of it and it tasted GREAT! I wasn’t expecting the sweetness of the sauce and the marinade of the pork chops to “go” together, but I was very pleasantly surprised…

  17. Congratulations on being featured on Freshly Pressed!

    Loved your post. I don’t like the look of the jelly in the shape of a can so I simply scoop it out by spoonfuls into a small serving bowl. That way I can get rid of the lines and quivering mass. Like so many others, I grew up having cranberry jelly as part of a turkey dinner. I graduated to “whole berry” sauce in a can when I became an adult and started cooking for myself.
    Now, I prefer to use fresh cranberries and make my own sauce with a recipe similar to yours.
    I buy the canned whole berry sauce and use it along with a little mayo in chicken or turkey sandwiches. Takes them to a new level.

  18. My mom always made the “real” stuff growing up and even though I only eat approximately three bites, it’s a very vital part of my Thanksgiving experiment. So last year, when I spent Thanksgiving with my husband’s side of the family and my mother-in-law (who makes practically everything from scratch) broke out the canned cranberry-colored gelatin, I basically wanted to cry. I guess no one in the family likes the real stuff but still…

    The moral of the story…I’m glad we’re going to MY mom’s house for Thanksgiving this year 🙂

  19. I didn’t realise they sell cranberry sauce in cans and in jelly form…. maybe that’s an American thing? As a English rose, i am used to my mum making her cranberry sauce herself…. and i’ve only ever come across shop-bought cranberry sauce in jars!

  20. My hubby and boys love the canned stuff! I was hoping to take the plunge and make my own this year, but the same fear you experience gave way…maybe next year! Great post!

  21. I grew up with the stuff in the can so it brings back fond memories of my family Thanksgivings. I only recently started eating/making the stuff from scratch and like it so much better.

  22. I add candied ginger (I chop it up into little pieces) and chopped pear to mine. It can stay in the frig for quite a while. But usually my hubby gobbles it all up within a few days.

    Personally, LOVE eating it with turkey. I find turkey naturally dry (or maybe it’s just the turkeys I bake, lol), and eating it with cranberry sauce is a much healthier alternative than eating it with gravy. 🙂

  23. Sugar and orange juice, that’s all I’ve ever cooked it in. My Philistine family likes the stuff in the can, which I mash into a bowl so I don’t have to look at the lines.

  24. I’m a sour-loving girl, so I’m sure it would have been too sweet for me as well. I like lemons and anything else tart.
    The homemade cranberry sauces I have liked have usually involved oranges–maybe orange zest? I also once had a cranberry sauce that had some horseradish in it, and I liked that one too, but used less of it. =)

  25. I am certainly a fan of homemade cranberry sauce. It’s not the sweetness as much at the tartness that I feel can really bring turkey to the next level. It’s just the right kind of tart. Thanks for sharing!

  26. If you would like to make it very sweet and very orangey, add 2/3 c. orange marmalade!

    I can kind of stand the whole berry canned kind, but not the solid kind. It looks like jelly. Jelly goes in jars, not cans.

  27. I posted (almost) the exact same recipe.
    Cranberry sauce is cranberry sauce but with the addition of Grand Marnier,
    it does kick it up a notch.

    Nice post.

    Happy Thanksgiving!!!

  28. I love both canned sauce (I dunno why, I really don’t) and home made sauce as long as the home made isn’t too chunky (maybe it’s the smoothness I like about the canned?). For some reason, I don’t like the real hard pieces of cranberry. My grandma adds mandarin oranges and walnuts to hers, and it’s pretty good that way… though I usually eat around them and enjoy them separate haha.

    This looks super easy though… I wonder if I should offer to make this for this year’s feast (which my gourmet BIL is making) and see if I can make it less chunky with the help of my immersion blender.

  29. This recipe looks easy and tasty- my favourite type of recipe! Thanks for sharing it! In Australia, cranberry sauce comes in jars and it has more of a runny, jam-like consistency. We don’t use that stuff in the cans. We also don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here, which is a real shame because it sounds like a lovely holiday!

  30. I made some today with maple syrup, cranberry juice and the juice of one lemon. I normally serve the kind from a can because my family doesn’t seem to care. With the temperatures dropping well below freezing and snow and ice covering the ground, I wanted something that reminded me of and extend fall while drinking with my afternoon coffee. I had leftover cranberries after making pumpkin cranberry cookies. 🙂

  31. I was never a big fan of the stuff growing up, but a couple Thanksgiving’s ago, my boyfriend’s family made some home made and made me try it, not too bad, not my favorite (like yams 😛 but it was ok). Nice post congrats on being freshly pressed 🙂

  32. Aah, a kindred spirit. I also used to squirm at the sight of wiggly cranberry sauce in the shape of the can it just plopped out of! Years ago, I had the homemade stuff at a friend’s house and I have never looked back. And even though I make my own every year for Thanksgiving, my mom inevitably reminds me that she “likes with the canned stuff and that would have been good enough for me.” And this comes from a woman who believes that everything (else) made from scratch is better than processed. Go figure!

  33. This looks delicious! I love cranberry sauce, both canned and homemade.

    As a side note, I love the font on your blog :] congrats on making Freshly Pressed!

    1. Thank you! The font is from typekit, but I can’t remember which one. I had fun picking different ones until I got the look I liked.

  34. cranberry sauce in the shape of a can is actually one of my favorite parts about Thanksgiving! haha

    but this looks delicious as well!
    mm.. i cannot wait for this holiday =)

  35. LOL! This is my favorite form of cranberry….the solidified, processed, “takes the shape of the can and ridges” stuff that love! I love cranraisins, juice, the “chunky” sauce, whatever as well. But this is the sauce that I love the best!

    Great post, made me laugh!

  36. I love cranberries, but I have never liked the slop they call “Cranberry sauce” It just puts me off with the sloppiness and I HATE the taster. Never liked it in the first place!

  37. Nothing beats homemade cranberry sauce. I found your recipe interesting. Usually the bagged recipe calls for 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. My mother always taught me to use 1/2 a cup of water and 2 cups of sugar. This creates a cranberry sauce which is more like preserves. It is very thick and yummy. Using this method, you don’t have to add the orange juice or orange zest. I will be making mine tomorrow.

  38. Martha Stewart had a great recipe for using leftover cranberry sauce: cranberry tartlets. You basically stuff pie dough with the cranberry sauce and bake them. I tried it and they came out good! So they might be even better with real cranberry sauce!

  39. Funny how people tackle the hardest of recipes on Thanksgiving, yet shy away from making something as simple as cranberry sauce and opt for the canned one instead.

  40. I used to make the real stuff too and nobody liked it. The gelatinous mass from the can calls out with nostalgia for what my family grew up eating. But this year we ended up throwing most of it away which seems wrong, so next hear we might not have any cranberry sauce at all.

    PS: Congrats on being FP – what a rush!

  41. This year we had my 7 year old nephew make the cranberry sauce, with a little help! (I still buy a can for the few who prefer the ridged, jellied stuff that they grew up eating.) Sometimes a batch in a burnt pan can be saved if you don’t touch the bottom when you stir and transfer to a clean pan right away. (Learned that after more than one occasion!) Boiling the pan with water and cream of tartar can clean the burnt stuff off pretty easily, especially if it is an aluminum pan that has boiled dry. Great post, and Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  42. I recently made cranberrie jam, there were a few differences in the recipe. I was wondering what the consistency of your sauce was? Mine came out a little grainy. Was your sauce at all like that?

    Like you I am not big on eating cran sauce, so I am not sure what it is supposed to tast/feel like. thanks in advance for your response.

    1. Marissa, I would say the consistency was almost like a marmalade, but I didn’t notice a grainy texture. I’m not big on cran sauce either, but I liked it. Tart and sweet. It is so super easy to make, it’s worth trying.

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