My Thanksgiving Declaration: No More Canned Cranberries!

cranberry serving set

I was browsing on Etsy the other day and came across this lovely picture of a vintage cranberry serving set. How funny is that? They actually had a special silverplated serving set for the can-shaped cranberry jelly!

A cranberry cylinder fits perfectly in the serving tray, and the serving utensil efficiently slices off jiggling disks to serve to your dinner guests! Ummm…..eww?

I’m sorry if what I am about to say offends some of you…(after No. 2 Spray and hemorrhoid relief, how offensive could it be!??)…but I can’t STAND that jellied cranberry sauce that comes in a can!

I mean LOOK at it! It’s unnatural I tell you!

canned cranberries

I’m not a big fan of the “whole berry” cranberry sauce in a can either, although it’s a big improvement over the gelatinous blob. But….I didn’t always feel that way.

Until I got married and was on my own for Thanksgiving for the first time…I figured the cranberries that magically appeared on our table every Thanksgiving were from a can! Oh the naivete of youth! But the first time I bought a can of cranberries I was appalled at how unsatisfactory they tasted compared to the cranberries my Mom served up every year. So I called up my Mom and asked her what the “secret” was. Well, color me cranberry-red! It turns out…making cranberry sauce from real, fresh cranberries is about the easiest thing to make on the face of the earth.

So I am here to declare on this day before the day before Thanksgiving….there is absolutely NO reason to ever buy canned cranberries again. (Unless of course you prefer them that way. Which I completely understand! It’s kind of along the same lines as my 13 year old son who will eat instant mashed potatoes, but not the homemade kind. *exasperated sigh*)

homemade cranberries

I realize this “declaration” will be old news to some of you. But when I was a young married gal it was a revelation! So this is for those of you who have yet to “see the light” when it comes to canned cranberries vs. fresh cranberries!   Now, step away from the can opener….and come with me over to the stove.

This is all there is to it my little friend…..

  • You’ve seen these bags in the grocery store produce section I’m sure. Next time you’re there, buy one.

homemade cranberries


  • Bring it home, open it and pour it in a saucepan.

homemade cranberries


  • Then pull out a measuring cup. Measure one cup of water, pour in pan.

homemade cranberries


  • Measure one cup of sugar, pour in pan.

homemade cranberries


  • Turn on stove, bring mixture to a boil, simmer 10 minutes.

homemade cranberries


  • Turn off pan. YOU, my friend, have just made homemade cranberry sauce!

homemade cranberries

Now doesn’t that look better than the canned stuff? Come on, you can’t deny it.

Remember, Santa is watching. ;-)

homemade cranberries

(Sorry, it’s a little out of focus….but even out of focus…it still looks better than the canned stuff! OK…I’ll stop now.)  :-)




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    • says

      Do any of you like Cranberry Relish? I know that’s the favorite for me! It is SOOO good! I cannot STAND the sauce or the jelly, but my mom like the other stuff :) I will let her know about this recipe! But here is my grandmother’s old fashioned recipe for Cranberry Relish! All you need is:
      2 apples (any variety)
      2 oranges (any variety)
      1 bag of cranberries (the regular size that you usually see)
      1 1/3 cup of sugar
      Blend up all ingredients in a blender until the texture of relish. Pour all contents in a bowl, and stir. YUM YUM!

        • Karol says

          we made this at home when I was a youngster but back then there were no food processors. Some of you may remember the old fashioned food grinder that fastened to the edge of a table or something. We used the pull out bread board. The grinding was the fun part, didn’t know it was ‘work’ then. LOL I didn’t like the relish tho or any kind of cranberries.

      • Lisa says

        Wanda, your recipe reminds me of mine – I don’t use apples, but I DO use the WHOLE orange, zest, pith, and all (get rid of the seeds if there happen to be any). Just chunk the whole thing up before blending it. Oh, and I find a food processor works better than a blender because the relish is so thick it won’t stay in the blades and you keep having to shut the thing off and push it back down in there.

        One more thing – wash and sort through the cranberries before any of these processes – I like to look through the berries and get rid of any that are mushy or bad looking before preparing them!

  1. Connie says

    Homemade is definitely better. For those who like the jellied variety, you can easily make it yourself! Just make the sauce as noted above, and puree the mixture in the food processor or blender. Once it is chilled, it’ll have the jelly consistency.

    • Elizabeth says

      Thank you. I always read that you had to push the pulp thru a fine mesh strainer. Never thought of the blender…I will next time though. Wish I knew this Sunday though…first time making my own jellied cranberry sauce didn’t turn out as planned (possibly because my 10 year old did most of the work while I was prepping something else for the early ‘friends’ thanksgiving we had last night.) next time though :)

  2. Laura N. says

    I just got home from school and was dreading the thought of looking up a new receipe for cranberries…Thank You for reminding me there is no better way to prepare cranberries….and I use the leftovers for scones the next morning…new receipe…what was I thinking? Thanks again!

  3. Diana W. says

    Whoa! I got a serving utensil from one of my husband’s grandparents when they died. It looks exactly like the spoon/slicer thing in the picture! I never knew that was it’s original function. I don’t have the matching dish, though. I’m so tickled to find out what it was originally used for.

    • says

      I TOTALLY make this sugar free all the time now! Get yourself some XYLITOL, the granular kind, I get mine at the health food store in a big bag, not the little packages! Use 3/4 cup Xylitol and 3 packages Splenda and VOILA! Yummy sugar free cranberry sauce! :) I use a little less of the water, just under 1 cup instead of the full cup, seems to thicken a bit better. Good luck! :)

  4. Keisha says

    I attempted these earlier this week as a test run, and I have one note to add…don’t overcook. If you cook too long they release too much acid and you will have a very bitter aftertaste to your sauce and trust me no amount of sugar will fix it, I tried. Going to give it another try tomorrow.

  5. Dana says

    If you have a stick blender, just blend your cranberries up in the pan until they are smooth, then they’ll gel in the jar as they cool. I did 4 bags of cranberries last night, and made some whole berry sauce, and some gelled sauce. I water bath canned them and now I have enough cranberries for Thanksgiving and Christmas!

    • CTY says

      Canning your own–now that’s an idea I can get behind! From the other comments it sounds like there is no need for pectin–did you use any? Did you add orange zest? I made orange marmalade for the first time this year and added a couple of dried cranberries to each jar to add a little burst of color. Looked and tasted awesome. Maybe I’ll add some strips of orange rind to the cranberry. Couldn’t hoight (hurt, I’m from NJ originally).

  6. Linda says

    Too Funny Jillee!!! I actually received one of those sets as a wedding gift back in 1987!!! And as much as I hate the can variety….I have a son that just loves it!! Go figure – he’s my picky eater though and you know how they are! LOL!! I make my own for the rest of us but I make it with orange juice also. I prefer the real stuff too, but will keep the college age son happy with the jellied can variety served in its own special dish! Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. karen farmer says

    LOOOVE making my own, and part of the fun is the ‘pop’ when the berries build up the steam inside, and it smells heavenly! I sometimes put just a hint of cinnamon and a little orange zest ~ thank you Jillee! LOOOOVE your site, much love and many blessings to you!

  8. Joyce says

    Perfect timing!! I make a home made cranberry sauce but it called for the can stuff. Everything else this thanksgiving will be from scratch and now the cranberry sauce will be too!!! Thanks so much!!

  9. Stephanie Fuller says

    How funny, I just made some last night and canned it! I haven’t used the bought canned version in years!

    I used two recipes, one from the Joy of Cooking that uses half water and half orange juice, plus 2 tsp grated rind, and the other from Splenda’s site:

    My experience was that I had to just about double the Splenda, and even then, I couldn’t get rid of the bitterness of the cranberries until I finally caved and added about half a cup of sugar. Not too much sugar considering, but I was trying for a completely sugar-free version. That helped, though I still wasn’t completely satisfied. When I went to taste it this morning, however, it was perfect. So, something to keep in mind when making it!

  10. Susie E says

    I ditched the sauce for Cranberry Butter a few years ago, and now Cranberry Butter is a holiday favorite,
    I’ve made it with frozen cranberries at other times of the year…just make sure the butter is very soft
    3/4 cup fresh cranberries
    6 Tbl. powdered sugar
    2 tsp. grated orange peel
    1 cup (2 sticks) butter- no substitutions
    Spread it on homemade rolls and you will be hooked, too!

    • Susan says

      When my son was around 10, his best friend (who was Iranian) had Thanksgiving dinner with us. Arash had never had cranberry sauce before (or apparently a Tgiving dinner). He inhaled the food and when we were finished & having coffee, he came over and politely asked if he could have the rest of the cranberry jelly (canned, ribs and all). We said yes, and he got a spoon and the bowl over and ate the rest of the can. That funny little face hovering over the cranberry jelly in America….made the entire day for me.

  11. Chris says

    HA!! My mom has that ‘vintage’ cranberry dish. And she INSISTS that at least 1 family member cannot survive without the canned crap. So, every year out comes the special serving dish and a can. I’m a homemade cranberry sauce girl but I’m not gonna argue with her. =)

  12. says

    Do any of you like Cranberry Relish? I know that’s the favorite for me! It is SOOO good! I cannot STAND the sauce or the jelly, but my mom like the other stuff :) I will let her know about this recipe! But here is my grandmother’s old fashioned recipe for Cranberry Relish! All you need is:
    2 apples (any variety)
    2 oranges (any variety)
    1 bag of cranberries (the regular size that you usually see)
    1 1/3 cup of sugar
    Blend up all ingredients in a blender until the texture of relish. Pour all contents in a bowl, and stir. YUM YUM!

  13. Sara Jones says

    I have made the jellied sauce for years and actually made 2 recipes of it last night. For the first time, I normally press mine through a strainer. I am just wondering if the blender pulverized the skin well enough that it is completly jelled? Would appreciate some feedback on this. I used a potato ricer last night and it worked great and was easier to clean than a strainer.
    BEWARE: Once you ever make the homemade, your family will never let you go back to the canned stuff. So, if you don’t want to make this every year for all the holidays, etc.; don’t ever start. LOL

  14. Jennifer says

    That’s pretty close to my Mom’s cranberry sauce recipe, only she does it in the microwave since the stove is full w/ other things.
    1 bag of cranberries
    1 cup of sugar
    In a 2 QT glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap & microwave on HI for 8 minutes.
    Remove plastic wrap – be careful of the steam! – and stir in a 1/4 cup of sugar & 1/4 cup of brandy.

  15. Karen Maynes says

    I laughed out loud when I saw that you, Jillee, have the exact same cranberry sauce server as I have! We must be the same vintage…although mine is tarnished from non-use.. .I have been making homemade cranberry sauce for a long time. I add a bit of fresh orange juice & a little orange zest- there you have it! Thanks for posting!

  16. says

    Thank you SO MUCH for this! When I was a kid we ALWAYS had fresh cranberry sauce because that was the ONLY thing that my mom allowed me to do by myself. That’s right…a 10 year old kid made this for Thanksgiving…you can too! Just remember to do it early on in the day because you want it to set up nicely in the fridge. We always stored ours in a mason jar and put a little bit in a pretty bowl to serve on the table.

  17. Joy Gallagher says

    there is a recipe I have used that calls for balsamic vinegar that you coook out but the sugars stay and also calls for O.J. Maybe that will be more diabetic saavy. Look it up on Google?? My mom has my grandmas silver cranberry ladle thingy. Cute but ew.

    • says

      Joy, try this recipe: I make this sugar free all the time now! Get yourself some XYLITOL, the granular kind, I get mine at the health food store in a big bag, not the little packages. Use 3/4 cup Xylitol and 3 packages Splenda and VOILA! Yummy sugar free cranberry sauce! :) I use a little less of the water, just under 1 cup instead of the full cup, seems to thicken a bit better. Good luck! :)

  18. Marsha says

    My favorite homemade is:
    12 oz. bag of cranberries
    1 cup sugar (I often use brown)
    Zest of oranges needed to make 1 cup of orange juice – add juice to cranberries
    1-2 cinnamon sticks
    Bring all to a boil until cranberries; turn heat down to simmer until cranberries pop.
    Take off heat and add 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Cool. Refrigerate. (Sauce thickens when cool.)

    I was asked to bring my sauce to several family gatherings this year. Of course I said yes, because it’s so easy!!

  19. sasha says

    I make a Cranberry Relish….. one bag of whole fresh cranberries, one orange (peel and all), one cup sugar (more if you think so). Run through a food processor, Viola! Cranberry Orange Relish. I make it every year and it’s the only kind I’ll eat.

    Yum, now my mouth is watering!

  20. Carolyn says

    This fresh recipe with a kick was a hit last year. Definitely making it again this year.
    Fresh Cranberry Relish
    1 – 12oz. bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
    1 medium fresh jalapeno, seeded and chopped
    juice of 1 lime and 1/2 half orange
    1 – 1 1/4 cups sugar
    1/4 tsp. salt
    Process until cranberries are coarsely chopped.
    Add :
    2 chopped green onions, white only
    1/2 cup chopped cilantro, leaves only
    Process until desired texture.

  21. Bell says

    I also hate that canned goop. I have only bought it a couple of times to please those that like/expect it. I have not tried making it myself because I have thought that I would not like it either. BUT I do like dried cranberries in salads and sweet potato casserole so I may try it this year.

  22. CTY says

    Thanks Jillee–going to our son’s of dinner, I never made my own (didn’t grow up with it). The canned is one of the six items on my son’s menu (his year long menu)– but my D in-law has only ever had homemade; don’t remember seeing the canned on the table last year. I’ll have to watch to see if he eats it now.

  23. Christine B. says

    I dislike cranberries but thought maybe it was because my mom always made me eat the stuff out of a can. One year I made a fresh cranberry sauce like this recipe– I still don’t like them but everyone else loved it. Now I am in charge of making cranberry sauce every year, even though I don’t like it. Oh well :-) !

  24. Stephanie says

    Cranberry sauce was one of the first things I learned how to make by myself. I found out last year that my dad doesn’t even like cranberry sauce, but year after year he ate it because I made it. That is the sign of a great dad and a great sauce.
    Also, I will change it up by using juice instead of water. Most years it’s orange juice, but I have used pomegranate and blueberry juice.

  25. Victoria says

    Hi, BTW your web site is my newest and current obsession. Thank you! I do not cook my cranberry sauce. I grate the cranberries . A food processing grating blade (what I used this time) or a kitchen aide grinding attachment work well. I’ve even used our blender to pulse small batches. Once they are grated I add fresh orange zest and juice and sugar (lots). Then I add ground allspice, nutmegs, cloves, ginger and cinnamon. mix well and let it “cook” in the fridge for a day or two before a holiday. I get rave reviews from everyone who eats it or tries it for the first time. I never measure, so just wing it and adjust as you go. (That’s the fun and tasty part of cooking.) There is lots of sugar which we try not to avoid in our house, but the rest of the ingredients are so good for you, it is an indulgence we agree allow ourselves. Again, thanks for your website!

    • says

      I think I would like it even better with pineapple! But I fear if I messed with it one tiny bit there would be a revolt come Thanksgiving dinner! My family is very picky that way. ;-)

      I love all the suggestions to use Orange Juice too! Why didn’t I think of that??

  26. MaryB says

    I grew up with the canned jellied version but discovered the whole berry homemade variety when I lived in Britain. I soon discovered I preferred this variety over the canned junk! I discovered Cranberry -orange sauce recipe many years ago and it’s been a firm favourite for at least 30 years with the family.

    I use:
    zest and juice of one orange
    1/2 cup of water
    1/2 cup of sugar
    pinch of salt
    1 – 12oz. bag of fresh cranberries
    Combine all but the cranberries in a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat. Stir till sugar is desolved (2-3 minutes approx)
    Add cranberries and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer till cranberries burst and sauce thickens slightly (about 7 minutes). You can sweeten with more sugar if you want. You can let cool to room temperature for serving or pop into 8 oz, canning jars (I get 3 jars out of this mixture). Seal and keep refridgerated. I made mine yesterday. They last for quite a while. I use little sugar because I don’t like sweet sauces with meats and poultry.

  27. says

    Maybe I can enlighten you as to why some of us eat canned cranberries. Growing up in the rural south, everything on our Thanksgiving dinner table was grown at home: fowl, pecans picked up for pies, all the vegetables. Even mincemeat pies were made of homemade mincemeat with REAL meat in it and homegrown currants. Mama grew her own sage to season dressing — we didn’t stuff; we had dressing in a pan, rich with chicken broth and eggs. The only things on the table not homegrown were salt, black pepper and the ubiquitous canned cranberry sauce. We considered cranberry sauce in a can a delicacy — BOUGHT AT THE STORE! Imported from ‘up north’ where cranberries grew in bogs and were magically transformed into cranberry jelly before traveling south. We are eating tradition. We have, however, given up making piecrust with real lard cooked out in a washpot.

  28. Terri Schanz says

    I’ve always made my own cranberry sauce, but we’ve given up cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving in favor of cranberry apple salad. I was looking for a copycat recipe for Bill Knapp’s cranberry apple salad when I found this. It’s pretty close to the original.

    I cook make the cranberry sauce as usual and let it chill. Then, I take 1 can of apple pie filling, and about 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts. Put the apple pie filing in a bowl and use a fork to chop the apples into small pieces. (I actually use a pastry blender for this). Next add the cranberry sauce and nuts, stir until blended and your done!!

    We have no more cranberry hater at our house since I’ve been serving this instead of plain cranberry sauce!

  29. says

    I love me some homemade cranberries! When I was a girl, we had the “jelled” stuff in the can.

    Here’s a twist on the cranberry that I discovered a year or so ago. Chocolate -dipped cranberries! O man! They are so good. Just wash, dry them, and dip them in melted chocolate chips or any good chocolate. Crazy good — sweet ‘n’ sour and crisp. Try it!

  30. Julie says

    I have been making homemade sauce for a few years now and will never go back… I make two versions, my dad likes the traditional sauce just like the recipe. But I like mine to have a little something so I add a few teaspoons of Grand Marnier. It adds an orange taste but adds a little something extra too. Sometimes I will also add orange zest. Yummy. I am making mine tomorrow night so it has time to set up.

  31. Comet says

    I do the straight up version from the back of the Ocean Spray bag and those who love it love it! I guess I am extremely flattered because my new Daughter In Law who is self-admittedly the PICKIEST EATER EVER LOVES this and asked me for the recipe last week.

    And then she told me that she was passing the recipe on to MY SON who is the only person in the house who COOKS!!!! LOL!

    I will make sure to pass on the variations for their Turkey Day–my son has cooked his new brides family Thanksgiving for the past 5 years!

    I have wondered—has anyone ever thought to save a CAN (well washed of course!) and just pour the hot cranberry sauce–strained or not (I don’t strain or blend!) and then chill it and slide it out of the can and onto a nice serving plate and set it on the table and NOT SAY A WORD? Wonder if anyone would notice or say anything? Of course you could always have a hidden back up can. Just in case.

    I have noticed that if you cook it much past the “Popping Berries” stage it has a tendency to not gel as well. Also–I use a beautiful crystal bowl to chill and serve this in–it looks so pretty on the table with the light on it!

  32. Keslie says

    I have this set. It used to be my Mom’s. We LOVE the jellied cranberry sauce in a can!!!!!!!!!
    Sorry. I am going to cook some cranberries this year in some orange juice until they pop and then add some honey if I need to. Happy Thanksgiving Jillee! and thank you for all of your ideas and inspiration


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