Cranberry sauce has a traditional association with Thanksgiving dinner in North America. For many, turkey just wouldn’t taste the same without this humble condiment.
While commercially-available cranberry sauce tastes fine despite its can shape, homemade cranberry sauce is a treat that your family will love. It’s simple to make, so why not give it a try?
This article will tell you everything you need to know about making cranberry sauce from scratch.
What Is Cranberry Sauce?
Cranberry sauce is a jam or relish that is made primarily from—you guessed it—cranberries. In North America, it’s associated with the Thanksgiving turkey dinner, but those in the UK eat it at Christmas. Although the basic recipe is the same across cultures, those in North America prefer a sweeter version, while those in the UK prefer it to be more on the sour side.
Cranberry sauce was probably not present at the first Thanksgiving meal, despite cranberries being abundant in the wild brush of New England at the time. The first recipe for it didn’t appear until 1796, and it wasn’t until 1912 that its producers started marketing it to a broader national audience.
Grocery stores started carrying canned cranberry sauce in 1941. The ease of opening a can to produce instant cranberry sauce almost ended the tradition of making it from scratch. But some still prefer the tangy and vibrant homemade version and swear it’s worth the effort. We’ll let you be the judge of that.
Making a basic cranberry sauce requires only three commonly-found ingredients:
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
That’s it! There’s no need to add any cornstarch or thickeners since cranberries are naturally high in pectin. Once the cranberries are broken down after cooking, the sauce will start to thicken as it cools.
It is possible to customize this recipe to your liking by adding spices and other ingredients. For example, some prefer using fruit like pineapples, pears, and apples in addition to cranberries.
It’s also common to use brown sugar instead of white, giving your cranberry sauce a richer flavor. You could also use maple syrup or honey instead of sugar or a sugar substitute if you’re watching your sugar intake.
Nuts and dried fruits are textural additions that can add some dimension to your sauce. Use these sparingly so that they won’t overwhelm the palate.
Here are some tried and true additions/replacements to experiment with when you’re making your cranberry sauce:
- Pinches of powdered nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice
- Replace half of the white sugar with brown sugar
- A splash of orange liqueur
- Zest from one orange or freshly squeezed orange juice to make cranberry-orange sauce
- Apple juice instead of orange juice
- 12 oz Fresh cranberries
- 1 cup White granulated sugar
- 1 cup Water
- Cook the sugar and orange juice together in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
- Add the cranberries to the saucepan and cook them down until they begin to pop. It should take about 10 minutes.
- After the cranberries have cooked down, remove the sauce from the heat and place it in a serving bowl. It will gel up as it cools off.
Tips & Tricks for Cranberry Sauce
Making homemade cranberry sauce is pretty straightforward, and seasoned cooks have found ways to streamline the process even more. Here are some handy tips and tricks for making the perfect cranberry sauce:
- You can use frozen cranberries or canned cranberries if fresh ones aren’t available in your area
- For a smoother sauce, run it through a blender or food processor
- Make it the day before you plan to use it so that it has time to cool off overnight
- The longer you cook the sauce, the thicker it will be
- This cranberry sauce freezes well, so you can make a big batch and use it throughout the year
Nutrition Information of Cranberry Sauce
This cranberry sauce recipe serves ten people. Each serving has:
- 95 calories
- 0g fat
- 1mg sodium
- 24g total carbohydrates
- 21g total sugars
- 2g dietary fiber
- 0g protein
- 15mg vitamin C
- 5mg calcium
- 71mg potassium
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have questions about how to make and serve homemade cranberry sauce? Here are some frequently asked questions for more information.
Should cranberry sauce be hot or cold?
The best way to serve cranberry sauce is the way you prefer to eat it. We like to serve it when it’s room temperature so that it’s neither too runny nor too cold.
If you’ve prepared it the day before and let it sit in the fridge overnight, take it out about an hour before dinner so it can reach the perfect temperature.
What is the difference between cranberry sauce and cranberry relish?
Unlike cranberry sauce, cranberry relish requires no cooking. That means one more free burner when you’re prepping a holiday dinner!
It’s made with fresh raw cranberries, usually put into a food processor to pulverize them. Then, a few whole cranberries are added.
How do you know when cranberry sauce is done?
You’ll know your sauce is done when all of the cranberries have “popped” and lost their round shape. They’ll be more flattened and broken apart.
The more you cook the cranberries, the more pectin they’ll release. This will make it thicker when it cools off. If you find that your cranberry sauce is too runny, try cooking it down for a few more minutes.
How long does cranberry sauce last in the fridge?
Store your cranberry sauce in an airtight glass or plastic container. It will last for 10 to 14 days in the refrigerator.
Cranberry sauce is a Thanksgiving necessity. Homemade cranberry sauce has a beautiful color and bright flavor that canned sauce can’t touch.
Although making it yourself takes a little more work, it definitely deserves a spot on your holiday table. The only downside is that your family might not be able to go back to the canned stuff!
I followed the recipe exactly and this was very sweet
Great flavor and so simple to throw together on a weary night.
Everyone in my family loves this.