Accidentally Cooking

Documenting my mistakes in the garden, kitchen and pantry

Cranberry Sauce

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Some people really love the cranberry sauce that comes out of the can. It’s not bad stuff by any stretch and it does play a vital role for some people in bringing back good memories of Thanksgivings gone by. I never had much of it as a kid so I didn’t have the same emotional attachment that other people do. Instead, I started making my own sauce from fresh berries and really enjoy those results. Here’s my “recipe“.

Cranberry Sauce

  1. Fresh Cranberries
  2. Some liquid
  3. Sugar
  4. Fresh Oranges
  5. Seasonings

Start off with the cranberries. Put them in a colander  give them a good rinse, pick of any stems you find and remove any brown/gooey/mushy/yucky/creepy berries. Dump them all in a big pot. Peel some Oranges. You only want to get the good peel or “zest” from the orange, not the white pith. I like to use a sharp knife or a vegetable peeler to get the peel because I like the look of big chunks in my sauce. You can use a microplane too for good results.

You need some liquid to cook the cranberries in. Most “traditional” recipes I’ve seen in the past call just for water, but I don’t like to use plain water unless I have to. Since I have some oranges laying around without peels, I juice those into the pot as well. This time I added a few cups of leftover limeade we had in the fridge and some extra orange juice. In years past I’ve added apple cider, white wine, or a variety of other flavorful fluids. You want to fill the liquid about 3/4 of the way up the pot to where the tops of the cranberries are. Keep in mind that cranberries float, so if you add too much liquid the level of the cranberries will rise but the relative levels of cranberries to liquid won’t change.  I also like to get some of the orange pulp into the mix too, I scrape some of it out of the juiced oranges with a knife, spoon or even my fingers. It’s just window-dressing at this point, so be creative.

I’ve heard of adding some diced apples to the sauce too. I’ve never tried it but I see no reason why it wouldn’t work.

Next, add some seasonings. I toss in a few cinnamon sticks to start. These look great in the final presentation, even if they aren’t edible. I toss in some cinnamon powder too. I also add, depending on my mood and what I’ve got in my pantry: some clove, nutmeg and maybe even some ginger. Sometimes I add some vanilla extract. Vanilla helps the flavors come together, but you don’t taste much of it in the final product. It gets mostly overwhelmed by the other flavors involved.

I bring the whole pot to a boil, and let it boil for a few minutes until most of the cranberries are popped and the sauce is noticeably thicker.

Now we need to add sugar to make it palatable. Some people like a more tart sauce, some people like it sweeter. Add the sugar in small quantities until you find the amount of sweetness that you prefer. Adding more sugar will help to thicken the sauce up as well.


If you want to can it, to have some fresh cranberry sauce at other times in the year, it’s easy to do. If you followed my recipe you may have plenty of acid in the mix already. If you haven’t added all the citrus, or if you want to be belt-and-suspenders sure, add some lemon juice. It never hurts and I usually do. You need to get to a pH of 4.6 or lower.  If you aren’t sure, either add a crapton of lemon juice or go out and invest in a food-grade pH meter. I put the sauce into some sterilized jars and boiled in a water bath for 20 minutes.

Author: Andrew Whitworth

I'm a software engineer from Philadelphia PA. Sometimes I like to go out to my garden, or step into my kitchen and make a really big mess of things.

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