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Homemade Cranberry Sauce

homemade cranberry sauce

This homemade cranberry sauce recipe is a delicious and easy-to-make condiment perfect for roast turkey or other poultry, ham or as topping on dessert recipes like cheesecake or ice cream.

What is Cranberry Sauce?

Cranberry sauce is a traditional side dish in many North American holiday meals, particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. It is made primarily from cranberries, a small, red, tart berry that grows in wet, acidic soil. It is a beloved part of holiday traditions in many households, and it adds a burst of color and flavor to the holiday table.

Cranberry sauce offers a delightful contrast of sweet and tart flavors, making it a favorite addition to both holiday and everyday meals. While store-bought cranberry sauce is readily available, making homemade cranberry sauce allows for customization of flavors and textures to suit individual preferences. Homemade cranberry sauce allows you to tailor the sweetness and additional flavorings to your liking, giving you a unique and delicious condiment for your dishes.

The basic process of making cranberry sauce involves cooking fresh (or frozen) cranberries with sugar and water until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens. Some recipes may also include additional flavorings like orange zest, orange juice, cinnamon, or other spices to enhance the taste.

Cranberry sauce can vary in texture from smooth and jellied to chunky with whole cranberries. Its flavor is a balance of tartness from the cranberries and sweetness from the sugar, and it adds a bright and tangy contrast to the savory dishes typically served during holiday feasts.

It's a versatile condiment that can be served not only with roast turkey but also with other poultry, ham, or even as a topping for desserts like cheesecake or ice cream. Many people also enjoy using leftover cranberry sauce in sandwiches or as a spread for various dishes.

Some key characteristics of Cranberry Sauce:

Taste: Cranberry sauce has a sweet-tart flavor profile. The cranberries' natural tartness is balanced by the sweetness of the sugar, creating a harmonious blend of flavors.

Texture: Cranberry sauce can vary in texture, ranging from chunky with whole cranberries to smoother and more jelly-like, depending on how it's prepared and cooked.

Uses: Cranberry sauce is typically served as a side dish alongside roasted poultry, such as turkey or chicken, during holiday feasts. It can also be used as a condiment for sandwiches, as a topping for desserts like cheesecake or ice cream, or as an ingredient in recipes for salads, sauces, and baked goods.

Variations: There are many variations of cranberry sauce, including recipes that incorporate additional ingredients like chopped nuts, raisins, or diced apples for added texture and flavor complexity.

best homemade cranberry sauce recipe

When to serve Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is a versatile condiment that can be served on various occasions and with different types of meals. Here are some common times and occasions when cranberry sauce is traditionally served:

Thanksgiving: In the United States, cranberry sauce is a staple on Thanksgiving tables. It is often served alongside roast turkey as part of the traditional Thanksgiving feast.

Christmas: Cranberry sauce is also a popular accompaniment to Christmas dinners, especially when roast turkey, ham, or other meats are on the menu.

Easter: Some families serve cranberry sauce with Easter ham or lamb dishes.

Holiday Meals: Cranberry sauce can be served during any holiday meal where poultry, pork, or other roast meats are featured.

Sunday Roasts: Many people enjoy cranberry sauce with Sunday roast dinners, whether it's roast chicken, pork or beef.

Special Occasions: Cranberry sauce can be served at special occasions such as family gatherings, birthdays, and anniversaries when it complements the main course.

Barbecues: Cranberry sauce can be used as a condiment for grilled chicken or turkey burgers at summer barbecues.

Sandwiches: Cranberry sauce can be used as a spread or condiment for sandwiches, especially those featuring turkey, chicken, or leftover holiday meats.

Appetizers: Cranberry sauce can be used as a topping for appetizers like meatballs, Brie cheese, or crostini.

Brunch: It can also be used as a topping for brunch items like pancakes, waffles, or French toast.

While cranberry sauce is often associated with holiday meals, there's no strict rule on when to serve it. You can enjoy cranberry sauce year-round with a wide variety of dishes to add a sweet and tart flavor profile that complements both savory and sweet flavors. Ultimately, it's a matter of personal preference and creativity in the kitchen.

how to make cranberry sauce

How to serve your Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce pairs well with a variety of dishes, particularly those that benefit from its sweet-tart flavor profile. Here are some common foods and dishes that are often served with cranberry sauce:

Roast Turkey: Cranberry sauce is a classic accompaniment to roast turkey, especially during Thanksgiving. It adds a sweet and tart contrast to the savory flavors of the turkey.

Roast Chicken: Just like with turkey, roast chicken benefits from the tangy sweetness of cranberry sauce. It's a great addition to a Sunday roast or holiday meal.

Pork Roast: Cranberry sauce complements the rich and slightly sweet flavor of pork. It can be served alongside a pork loin roast or pork chops.

Pork Tenderloin: For a quick and easy weeknight dinner, serve cranberry sauce with pan-seared or roasted pork tenderloin. The sweet-tart sauce works wonderfully with the mild flavor of the pork.

Duck: The bold flavors of duck pair wonderfully with cranberry sauce. It cuts through the richness of the meat and adds a burst of flavor.

Ham: Whether you're serving a baked ham or ham steaks, cranberry sauce is a classic choice to serve alongside it. The sweet and salty combination is delightful.

Chicken or Turkey Sandwiches: Use cranberry sauce as a spread for chicken or turkey sandwiches. It adds moisture and a burst of flavor to the sandwich.

Brie Cheese: Cranberry sauce can be served with Brie cheese as an appetizer. The creaminess of the cheese and the sweetness of the cranberry sauce create a delicious contrast.

Meatballs: Cranberry sauce can be used as a glaze or dipping sauce for meatballs, especially when combined with other flavors like chili sauce or cocktail sauce.

Stuffed Peppers: If you make stuffed peppers with a meat and rice filling, a spoonful of cranberry sauce on top can add a unique twist to the dish.

Brie or Camembert Cheese: Baked Brie or Camembert cheese topped with cranberry sauce is a delightful appetizer or party snack. The warm, creamy cheese and the sweet-tart sauce complement each other beautifully.

Grilled Cheese: Add a layer of cranberry sauce to your grilled cheese sandwich for a sweet and savory combination.

Sandwiches: Use cranberry sauce as a spread for sandwiches, especially those made with leftover turkey or chicken. It adds a delightful flavor and moisture to your sandwiches.

Cheese and Charcuterie Platters: Cranberry sauce can be a lovely addition to a cheese and charcuterie board, providing a sweet and tangy element that pairs well with cheeses, cured meats, and crackers.

Grilled or Roasted Vegetables: Consider drizzling cranberry sauce over grilled or roasted vegetables like Brussels sprouts or sweet potatoes for a festive touch.

Salads: You can incorporate cranberry sauce into salad dressings or use it as a fruity element in salads with greens, nuts, and cheese.

Pancakes or Waffles: Use cranberry sauce as a topping for pancakes or waffles, along with a dollop of whipped cream or yogurt.

Desserts: Cranberry sauce can be used as a topping for desserts like cheesecake, ice cream, or pound cake. It adds a vibrant color and a burst of fruity and tangy flavor to sweet treats.

Remember that cranberry sauce can be served warm or cold, so you can adjust its temperature to suit your preference and the dish you're serving it with. Its versatility makes it a popular condiment for a wide range of meals and occasions.

How to make Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce Ingredients:

Cranberries: The primary ingredient is cranberries, which are small, red, tart berries. They are typically available fresh or frozen, and some recipes may use canned cranberry sauce.

Sugar: Sugar is added to cranberry sauce to sweeten it and balance the tartness of the cranberries.

The sugar, while necessary, doesn't need to be granulated. You can use maple syrup, brown sugar and even honey. You can also opt to swap out the sugar for your preferred sweetener substitute and make it a low sugar recipe. That's the beauty of making your own homemade cranberry sauce - customization options are endless.

Water: Adding water (or liquid) helps create a syrupy consistency and aids in cooking the cranberries.

You can swap out the water for orange juice, apple cider or grape juice.

Optional Flavorings: Some recipes may include additional flavorings and spices. Add whatever suits your fancy or your taste. Options include (but are not limited to) orange or citrus zest or peel, cinnamon sticks or nutmeg to enhance the sauce's taste. Whole cloves, star anise and ginger all work well with cranberries and can be added while the sauce cooks to infuse your sauce with flavor.

cranberry sauce

Basic Preparation Guide:

Cranberry sauce is relatively easy to make. It involves cooking the cranberries with sugar and water until the cranberries burst and release their natural pectin, which thickens the sauce.

Rinse the Cranberries: Start by rinsing the fresh cranberries thoroughly under cold running water. Remove any damaged or discolored berries.

Zest and Juice the Orange: Use a fine grater or a zester to remove the zest from the orange. Be careful to avoid the white pith, as it can be bitter. Then, juice the orange and set the zest and juice aside.

Combine Ingredients: In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, water, and optional cinnamon. Stir everything together.

Cook Over Medium Heat: Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer.

Simmer and Stir: Let the mixture simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens. Stir occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add Orange Zest and Juice: Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the orange zest and juice. If you didn't use a cinnamon stick, you can add a pinch of ground cinnamon for extra flavor.

Cool and Serve: Allow the cranberry sauce to cool to room temperature. It will thicken as it cools. You can serve it immediately or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate it until you're ready to serve.

Optional: Strain or Leave Chunky: If you prefer a smoother cranberry sauce, you can strain it through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the cranberry skins and any large pieces. If you like it chunky, leave it as is.

Serve: Enjoy your homemade cranberry sauce!

Variations:

Cranberry sauce can be made in various ways to suit different tastes. Some people prefer chunky cranberry sauce, where the berries remain mostly whole, while others like a smoother, jellied version where the berries are completely broken down. Commercially, you can find canned cranberry sauce in both jellied and whole-berry forms.

best cranberry sauce recipe

Three Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipes in One

The first one is what I call the fancy one - with orange juice and cooked with orange peel and cinnamon stick. The second one is probably the most basic cranberry sauce you can ever make. The third, well the third is not really a different recipe. It is the Jellied Cranberry Sauce.

RECIPE 1 - Orange Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients

12 oz fresh cranberries rinsed and picked through
1 cup sugar
½ cup orange juice
½ cup water
pinch of salt
1 cinnamon stick
1 piece of orange peel just use a potato peel or paring knife

Instructions

1. Start with zesting the Orange as it is almost impossible to zest after you squeeze the juice.

If you want to copy what I did in this recipe, use the peeler instead. Carefully start peeling the outer orange peel making sure that it doesn't go deep. The white underlayer is bitter and you don't want that in your cranberry sauce. (The same when you are zesting, just scrape the outer orange peel).

2. Squeeze the orange juice after you're done zesting. One big navel orange is usually about 1/2 cup which is perfect for this recipe for cranberry sauce.

Skye Tip: I used Navel Orange because of its (more) orangey flavour.

3. Combine sugar, orange juice and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir to combine.

4. Add the cranberries, salt, cinnamon stick and orange peel or zest.

5. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.

6. Continue cooking, for about 10 minutes, or until all or most of the cranberries have popped.

If you want to leave some cranberries whole, turn off the heat before all the cranberries have popped. If you want a more jellied consistency, start mashing with a spoon as the cranberries pop.

7. Let cool for at least 30 minutes then transfer to a jar or a covered container and refrigerate.

This homemade cranberry sauce recipe can be made 3 days in advance.

Makes 2 1/4 cups 565 mL.

RECIPE 2 - Three-ingredient Cranberry Sauce

This recipe is actually the Ocean Spray cranberry sauce recipe.

Ingredients

12 oz fresh cranberries rinsed and picked through
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Instructions

1. Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

2. Add the cranberries and return to a boil.

3. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes stirring occasionally

4. Transfer the sauce into a bowl or a jar, cover and cool completely to room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.

Makes 2 1/4 cups 565 mL.

best cranberry sauce

RECIPE 3 - Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients

Use ingredients from either Recipe 1 or 2.

Instructions

1. Cook the Cranberry sauce as above, regardless of the simple one or the orange cranberry sauce.

2. Before cooling, place a wire mesh strainer over a mixing bowl. Pour everything into the strainer.

3. Mash cranberries with the back of a spoon, frequently scraping the outside of the strainer until no pulp is left. Discard the pulp.

4. Stir contents of bowl and transfer to a jar or a serving container.

5. Cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time. Makes 1 cup 250 mL.

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Expert Tips and FAQ's

How to store homemade cranberry sauce?

This is a great item to make ahead thus helping you cross if off from your to do list up to a month before the celebrations.

Refrigerate – Transfer to a covered glass or a plastic container. It keeps for 10-14 days.
Freeze – Transfer to an airtight freezer safe bag or container. It will stay fresh tasting for a month.

How many days does homemade cranberry sauce last?

Room temperature – 2 hours
Fridge - 10 to 14 days

Can I make this recipe low in sugar?

Yes, you can substitute sugar with the sweetener of your choice.

Can you freeze cranberry sauce in a Mason jar?

The same with all jams and jellies, you can freeze this homemade cranberry sauce. It is a great make ahead item and one less item to fuss about during the holidays, whether at Christmas or Thanksgiving. Just make sure that the container is freezer safe.

What do you serve with cranberry sauce?

See above for a list of options to serve with cranberry sauce.

Trouble shooting your homemade cranberry sauce:

If it is runny
It is either you put too much liquid, or you haven’t cook it enough and hasn’t released the pectin yet (what makes it thicken).
To remedy, just cook for a few minutes more until you get your desired thickness.

If thick
At the flip side of being runny, you might have cooked it too long, so it ended up thicker than you wanted.
To fix, add a tablespoon of water at a time and give it a good mix. Continue with this process until it is your desired thickness before taking off from the heat.

If it tastes bitter
The basic recipes for cranberry sauce have three ingredients – cranberries, water and sugar. The sugar is obviously to balance the cranberries which are bitter and tart. But sometimes the balance is not achieved. If this happens, add a pinch of salt. You will not taste it but salt helps equalize the sweet-tart flavor of your homemade cranberry sauce while making it a better pairing for your sweet and savoury dishes.

Cuisine ,
Courses
Difficulty Beginner
Time
Prep Time: 2 mins Cook Time: 15 mins Rest Time: 20 mins Total Time: 37 mins
Servings 18
Calories 47 per serving
Best Season
Description

This homemade cranberry sauce recipe is a delicious and easy-to-make condiment perfect for roast turkey or other poultry, ham or as topping on dessert recipes like cheesecake or ice cream.

Ingredients
    RECIPE #1
  • 12 ounces Fresh Cranberries (See Notes 1)
  • 1 cup Sugar (1 cup = 200 grams) (See Notes 2)
  • 1/2 cup Orange Juice (1/2 cup = 120 mL) (See Notes 3)
  • 1/2 cup Water (1/2 cup = 120 mL)
  • 1 stick Cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 Orange peel or zest (optional) (See Notes 4)
  • Pinch of Salt
  • RECIPE #2
  • 12 ounces Fresh Cranberries (See Notes 1)
  • 1 cup Sugar (1 cup = 200 grams) (See Notes 2)
  • 1 cup Water (1 cup = 240mL)
Instructions
    RECIPE #1
  1. Start with zesting the Orange as it is almost impossible to zest after you squeeze the juice.

    See above blog if you prefer how it looked like in the images.

  2. Squeeze the orange juice after you're done zesting. One big navel orange is usually about 1/2 cup which is perfect for this recipe for cranberry sauce.

  3. Combine sugar, orange juice and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir to combine.

  4. Add the cranberries, salt, cinnamon stick and orange peel or zest.

  5. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.

  6. Continue cooking, for about 10 minutes, or until all or most of the cranberries have popped.

    If you want to leave some cranberries whole, turn off the heat before all the cranberries have popped. If you want a more jellied consistency, start mashing with a spoon as the cranberries pop.

  7. Let cool for at least 30 minutes then transfer to a jar or a covered container and refrigerate. 

    Makes 2 1/4 cups.

    This recipe for cranberry sauce can be made 3 days in advance.

  8. RECIPE #2
  9. Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

  10. Add the cranberries and return to a boil.

  11. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes stirring occasionally

  12. Transfer the sauce into a bowl or a jar, cover and cool completely to room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.

    Makes 2 1/4 cups.

  13. RECIPE #3
  14. Use ingredients from either Recipe 1 or 2.

    Cook the Cranberry sauce as above, regardless of the simple one (recipe #2) or the orange cranberry sauce (recipe #1).

  15. Before cooling, place a wire mesh strainer over a mixing bowl. Pour everything into the strainer.

  16. Mash cranberries with the back of a spoon, frequently scraping the outside of the strainer until no pulp is left. Discard the pulp

  17. Stir contents of bowl and transfer to a jar or a serving container.

  18. Cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.

    Makes 1 cup 250 mL.

Nutrition Facts

Servings 18


Amount Per Serving
Calories 47kcal
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 0.01g1%
Sodium 0.18mg1%
Potassium 15.1mg1%
Total Carbohydrate 12g4%
Dietary Fiber 0.07g1%
Sugars 11.8g
Protein 0.05g1%

Vitamin A 0.69 IU
Vitamin C 3.4 mg
Calcium 0.87 mg
Iron 0.03 mg
Vitamin K 0.01 mcg
Thiamin 0.01 mg
Niacin 0.03 mg
Folate 2.1 mcg
Magnesium 0.76 mmol
Selenium 0.07 mg

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs. Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption. source: https://nutritiondata.self.com

Notes
  1. You can also use frozen cranberries. I actually freeze fresh cranberries and then thaw them when I want to make a cranberry sauce. 
  2. Substitute with your choice of sweetener if you want a low sugar option.
  3. If you don't want to add Orange Juice, just replace with water. Usually, you get half cup of Orange Juice from one Orange.
  4. You can use either Orange peel or zest. If you want to do the peel, see blog above on how it was done.
Keywords: cranberry sauce recipe, cranberry sauce, homemade cranberry sauce, how to make cranberry sauce, jellied cranberry sauce recipes

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