This homemade cranberry sauce with a hint of orange and ginger is a perfect side dish for your special dinner. It’s so quick and easy to make, you’ll never go back to canned sauce again! Make it a week ahead to take the pressure off on the big day.
What Makes Cranberry Sauce Thick
Cranberries are naturally high in pectin – a natural substance found in most fruits that helps them keep their shape and allows jams and jelly to set. When you combine pectin, sugar, acid and heat it forms a gel. That’s what jam or jelly is.
Because cranberries are so high in pectin and have sufficient acid, when you cook them with sugar for long enough (about 8-10 minutes) it thickens naturally – no gelatin, cornstarch, agar or other ingredient needed!
Cranberry sauce made with whole cranberries is basically jam and if you strain it’s just like jelly.
What to Look for When Buying Cranberries
In North America, cranberries are harvested between September and November, so look for fresh berries in the fall and choose frozen berries the rest of the year. Frozen cranberries are not blanched, so they’re almost like fresh berries.
Consider buying extra fresh cranberries to freeze. Wash, pat dry and put in airtight freezer bag.
- firm berries – firmer is fresher
- full, plump berries (not wrinkled)
- bags that have few broken or smashed berries – avoid bags that have liquid in them!
- colour that ranges from light to deep red, it’s normal to have colour variations
Fun Fact: As cranberries ripen they turn from green to white to light red to deep red. They have the highest pectin amount when they transition from white to light red – this is when they will thicken the best. They will become softer as they turn deep red and produce more juice at this stage. The sweetness level doesn’t change much between the light red to dark red. For cranberry sauce, it’s ideal to have a combination of colours.
Try different spices for different flavours.
- Spiced Cranberry Sauce – try any combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, black pepper
- Apple Cranberry Sauce – add diced apples, apple juice or applesauce for a less bitter/tart sauce
- Maple Cranberry Sauce – use maple syrup to sweeten your sauce
- Fruity Cranberry Sauce – replace the water and OJ with cherry, pineapple, mango or other fruit and fruit juice
- Spirited Cranberry Sauce – replace some of the water with red wine (Cabernet) or liqueur (Grand Marnier)
- Spicy Cranberry Sauce – turn up the heat with by adding hot peppers
How to Make Jellied Cranberry Sauce
Do you prefer cranberry sauce without the pulp? No problem. Make it exactly as instructed, just put it through a strainer or food mill before it cools. You’ll get a nice smooth, jiggly sauce with all the flavour.
If you don’t mind just a wee bit of texture, puree the sauce with an immersion blender.
Use the leftover pulp on your morning oatmeal or toast!
How To Store and Freeze Cranberry Sauce
Fridge: Keep cranberry sauce in a well sealed container in the refrigerator for 10 to 14 days.
Freezer: Keep in a well sealed, airtight bag or container in the freezer for 6 months. It will be safe much longer, but the quality of the colour, flavour and texture will start to degrade after this point.
19 Ideas for What To Do With Leftover Cranberry Sauce
The endless flavour journey has just begun! Cranberry sauce is good for so much more than just as a side to your turkey dinner. Here are some things you can do with your leftovers.
- use with leftover turkey, chicken or pork to make amazing sandwiches or grilled cheese
- use as a topping for burgers or pulled pork
- use as a topping for baked brie or just dollop a little on crackers with soft cheese
- use as a glaze for baked ham, chicken or roast
- use as a flavour maker in salad dressings
- add to or use in place of sweet and sour sauce for dipping or topping (chicken fingers, meatballs, pot stickers, etc.)
- add to your smoothies
- add to your morning oatmeal, 7 grain cereal or chia seed pudding
- use on top of pancakes, French Toast or waffles instead of or with syrup
- spread it on toast or quick breads like gingerbread or pumpkin loaf
- replace the cranberries in this French Toast Bake or with 1 cup cranberry sauce
- replace the rhubarb in this Rhubarb Bread Pudding with 2 cups cranberry sauce
- use as a filling in crepes, along with Honey Orange Ricotta to sweeten things up
- use in place of applesauce in many baking recipes or mix half and half applesauce and cranberry sauce
- use as a swirl filling in cakes or muffins like in these Rhubarb Surprise Muffins
- use as a filling instead of rhubarb in these Rhubarb Oat Bars
- drizzle it on top of a bowl of ice cream or yogurt
- use instead of rhubarb pieces and jam in these Rhubarb Cinnamon Buns
- mix with applesauce and make Cranberry Fruit Leather
Those are just a few ideas to get you started! Don’t be afraid to experiment. Think of any recipe that uses a sweet/tart sauce or jam and try it with your homemade cranberry sauce.
Can You Can Cranberry Sauce?
Yes you can! Use water bath canning to heat process half pint jars (1 cup) for 15 minutes.
For full details and a tested recipe for 4 cups of cranberries check out this simple How to Article by the National Center of Home Food Preservation, the leader in safe home canning.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe
Cranberry Sauce with Orange & Ginger
- 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 cup water
- 2 Tbsp orange juice concentrate*
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1-2 Tbsp fresh grated orange zest
- 2-3 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
- 1 cinnamon stick (1 tsp cinnamon powder) optional
- 1/2 tsp salt
- In medium size pot, bring cranberries, water, orange juice and sugar to boil. Reduce heat slightly and simmer for 8-10 minutes until cranberries pop and soften.
- Stir in grated orange zest, ginger, salt and cinnamon (if using). Cook for another 2-5 minutes until blended and cranberries have soften to a consistency you like.
- Remove from heat and let cool. It will continue to thicken as it cools. For t a more jelly-like sauce, press through sieve or puree with a blender.
- Once cooled, store in fridge in well sealed container for 10-14 days. Freeze in airtight container/bag for up to 6 months.
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
Have you tried homemade cranberry sauce before? How do you use your leftovers? Leave a comment below or tag me on Instagram @getgettys and Facebook @GettyStewart.HomeEconomis
Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist, speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas. She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.