By Christie Vanover | Published November 8, 2011 | Last Updated December 28, 2022
Thanksgiving tabletop traditions vary widely from region to region, especially when it comes to stuffing. But no matter where I’ve lived in the U.S., or whose house I’ve eaten at, most American Thanksgiving dinners involve a congealed can of red goo.
How did we come to love this stuff?
Who thought it would be a great idea to take all of the freshness out of the cranberry, strain it, mix it with high-fructose corn syrup, jellify it and package it in a tin can with ridges?
To serve it, you have to open the can and jump on one leg to wiggle it out. Then, if you’re lucky enough to remove it in one piece, it’s not pretty.
You basically have a can-shaped red gelatin, ridges and all.
Stick that on a plate and carry it to the table, and it’s likely to roll right onto the floor.
To avoid that disaster and to dress it up, we slice it and serve it on lettuce leaves or in a fancy dish, but really? Does that truly make this stuff look any better?
And who eats it? Grandma, grandpa, your husband because he wants to make you happy?
Think back to Thanksgivings past; how often does that cranberry sauce get tossed into the garbage disposal? Well, not this year!
This year, cranberries will be the star. They’ll be one of the dishes people will reach to for seconds because this year, you’re making cranberry sauce from scratch.
Cranberries made it to our Thanksgiving tables because the sweet, tart fruit goes deliciously with turkey. So let’s go back to the basics.
You can find bags of fresh cranberries in the produce section, but don’t let these highly nutritious ruby gems fool you. If you eat a berry raw, they’re not so great. They do need some love and some sugar.
The type of sweetener you use is up to you. You can use white sugar, brown sugar, honey or even agave nectar. I’ve included the basic recipe using white sugar, but feel free to mix it up.
The first step in making homemade cranberry sauce is cooking the berries to bring out their natural sweetness. This is a fun and messy process because the berries will actually pop as they cook.
Once the cranberry juice breaks down with the sugar, the mixture will become syrupy. That’s when you know it’s time to add the other ingredients.
I like to brighten the flavors even more by adding oranges, apricots and pineapple. I use clementine oranges because they are plentiful this time of year, and they are seedless and easy to peel. Apricots and pineapples, on the other hand, are not in season, so I cheat and use apricot-pineapple jelly.
Lastly, I add a hint of autumn spice so that the aroma of fall drifts under your nose before you take a bite.
This sauce can be made up to a week in advance, so like its ugly cousin in the can, it won’t take you long to get it on the table Thanksgiving day. Just spoon it into a fancy dish and place it on your beautiful table ~ no need to jump on one leg.
Dip your bite of turkey breast into the sauce, and you’ll have a whole new appreciation for this side dish. It’s something truly to be thankful for.
And if you do have leftovers, use it as spread on turkey sandwiches or turkey and brie paninis.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- 1 12- oz. bag fresh cranberries
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 clementine oranges chopped (about ½ cup)
- ½ cup apricot-pineapple jelly
- ⅛ tsp. cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp. kosher salt
- Place the berries and sugar in a pot.
- Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The berries will pop and break down into a syrup.
- Peel the clementine oranges and chop with a knife or in a food processor. Stir the oranges, jelly, cinnamon and salt into the cranberry sauce.
- Transfer to a food container, cover and refrigerate for up to one week.
- Serve chilled in a fancy bowl alongside your Thanksgiving turkey.
This estimate was created using an online nutrition calculator