Whole Cranberry Sauce

noviceThanksgiving is a week away, and I’m sure many of you are planning your menus or debating what to make. Me too. I still don’t know what I want to contribute, although my mom has requested last week’s key lime pie. But, if you’re  looking for something a bit simple that will also be a crowd favorite, might I suggest you consider homemade cranberry sauce?

Now, some of you might be saying, “Mariel are you crazy?! I love canned cranberry sauce and it is a Thanksgiving staple.” And I hear you. Canned cranberry sauces is sweet, predictable, and tastes pretty good. But let me give you four reasons to consider making it yourself.

1. It’s super easy to make. With this recipe, even the most inexperienced cook can bring something delicious to the holiday table. And it stores well too, so you can make it days ahead of time.

2. The numbers don’t lie. This recipe is both inexpensive and makes a lot. One bag of fresh cranberries about $2 and a can is about $1.50. And, one 12oz bag of fresh cranberries will make about 2.5 cups of sauce (about 20 oz), while a can is usually 14oz. You’re getting up to 6 oz more of cranberry goodness for just 50¢.

3. Three ingredients. All pronounceable, all familiar.

4. The “awe factor.” You’ll bring it to your holiday feast and people will be all, “wow you made that,” and they don’t have to know that it took you less than 15 minutes. Making your own cranberry sauce, you can feel proud that you stepped Thanksgiving up a notch. BOOM.

photo 4Seriously, I love this recipe. I made it on Sunday and have just been eating it straight from the bowl with a spoon. I take it to work as a lunchtime side dish. Ryan has has about 2 spoonfuls and I’ve probably eaten the rest.  I like to think this is how I’m getting my daily servings of fruit.

But, if you still absolutely need your can, and you think this is the most ridiculous, blasphemous post ever – please stick with me just a bit longer. At the bottom of the recipe I have a few variations that might satisfy those of you who prefer smooth and canned cranberry sauce.

Adapted from how my mom told me to make this (and also the back of the Ocean Spray bag)


1 cup of water

1 cup of sugar

1 12oz bag of fresh (or frozen) cranberries


1. Rinse cranberries.

photo 1

I used frozen berries

2. Put the water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat on high and bring it to a boil. As that water is heating up, I stir occasionally to help the sugar dissolve.

3. Once the water is boiling, add the cranberries. When the water has come back to a roiling boil, then lower the heat to medium-low.

photo 2

4. Simmer the cranberries for 10 minutes, or until the water becomes thick and red. This simmering part is THE BEST. The cranberries hiss, sizzle, and pop open. Their skins burst and their sweet-tart juice ooze out.

5. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. Store in the refrigerator. The sauce will thicken a bit more as it cools.

photo 5

Variation #1 – For a citrus twist on an old favorite add up to 1/2 cup of orange juice in with the water and sugar. Follow the directions as above. At the end, stir in zest from 1 orange.

Variation #2 – Prefer smooth sauce? Follow the recipe above. Once it’s cool enough to touch, pour the sauce into a fine mesh sieve or colander. Place that over a bowl. Using a metal spoon or your hands, press the sauce through the sieve. Keep pressing until all that’s left in your sieve are the seeds and skins. In your bowl you’ll have smooth sauce.

Variation #3 – Absolutely need the can shape? Find how you can do it here, from Food 52.

1 spoonMessy Level – Just one spoon. The only time I made a mess was when I’d sneak the container out from the fridge and then eat giant spoonfuls over the counter. There was spilling. It was delicious, so I couldn’t be neat as I scarfed it down.


4 thoughts on “Whole Cranberry Sauce

  1. Fun and easy–I had no idea! Too bad I really don’t like cranberry sauce. Although maybe I would if I made it myself. 🙂


  2. I’ve been shocked to hear how many people don’t make it! I guess I didn’t realize most people buy it b/c for the longest time it was the only task I was given on Thanksgiving b/c it’s so easy. I like to put in a little OJ and cinnamon in mine!

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