Cranberry Sauce 101

Today’s lesson in Thanksgiving prep (are you sick of Thanksgiving yet? Tough!) concerns what is, in my opinion, the best part of the Thanksgiving table. No, I’m not talking about the napkin rings shaped like little turkeys, I’m talking about that glistening bowl of ruby red cranberry sauce. Its combination of tongue-tickling tartness and mouth-warming sweetness makes even the dullest bird sing. Sure, you could get it out of a can, but I won’t be coming back to your Thanksgiving table if you do that. My kind of cranberry sauce is the kind you make yourself and, frankly, it couldn’t be easier.

Here’s all you need to know: cranberries + sugar = cranberry sauce. If you use less sugar, your sauce will be tarter. If you use more sugar your sauce–DUH!–will be sweeter. Everything else just adds flavor.

So take, for example, this cranberry sauce that I made last week based on a recipe from Epicurious. In a pot, I added a bag of cranberries, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 peeled diced apples, a cinnamon stick, and long strips of lemon peel (just the yellow, no white). Oh and a splash of water (like 1/4 cup).


Put that on medium heat, stir it around, and after 5 minutes or so the cranberries will burst open and the sugar will make it thicken (sort of like making jam). Cook to your desired consistency–that’s usually reached when all the liquid evaporates–then remove from the heat and carefully taste. When I tasted, I thought it was too tart so I added a little more sugar and stirred it in, cooking it for another 30 seconds.

That’s all there is to it. Then just refrigerate and remove an hour before you want to serve it so it’s not ice cold.

“But Adam,” you might say, “is that it in the flavor department? Isn’t there anything else I can do to make my cranberry sauce peppy?”

Of course there is: here are some links to help you out. Now there’s no excuse. Make thy own cranberry sauce or perish in my estimation of you though I’m sure you’re still a very nice person.

Other Cranberry Sauce Recipes Worth Making:
Persimmon Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry Sauce with Red Wine and Figs (David Lebovitz)
Ginger Cranberry Sauce (Epicurious)
Pear Brandy and Walnut Cranberry Sauce (Food52)
Bourbon Cranberry Sauce (Bon Appetit)
Cranberry Chutney with Crystallized Ginger and Dried Cherries (Orangette)

7 thoughts on “Cranberry Sauce 101”

  1. confession: I actually LOVE the canned jellied stuff…terrible I know but I think it is a nostalgia thing. The good ‘ol days and all that.
    But, I really do love and appreciate the freshly made kind too and would not mind having both actually :) the more cranberries the better.

  2. I work for a boarding school and we served both kinds to our guys. The Chinese kids asked me what it was…they were confused that were 2 kinds: homemade & canned….and they were very confused when I told them it went on the meat, not the salad…and then they came back and got bowls of it to eat straight!

  3. I’m thankful compiled this information, the upcoming Thanksgiving and then, here is a very special occasion in the year with everyone. Maybe I should find myself ideas for this occasion only. Really thank you.

  4. I always put fresh squeezed orange juice into mine, as well as grated orange zest and ginger. This year I added a bit of ground clove and that ended up being a great addition! I used to hate the idea of cranberry sauce until I made it fresh one year. Now my family and friends demand it makes a yearly appearance!

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