Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Cranberry Sauce! Cranberry sauce is another “co-star” having an important and delicious role as part of the supporting cast in the annual grand production we fondly call Thanksgiving Dinner, where a roasted turkey is the “star” of the show. (See last post on Two Traditional Thanksgiving Side Dishes for more about this.)
Three main ingredients merge in this sweet/tart dish – sugar, water and cranberries. Recipes also abound for cranberry sauce with other ingredients such as port wine, orange zest, orange-flavored liqueur, nuts and more.
Canned cranberry sauce comes in 2 varieties – whole berry and jellied. Homemade cranberry sauce is so much better than canned that I really recommend you try making some if you have the time. Homemade cranberry sauce takes 15-20 minutes to process in a boiling water bath canner. Of course there is some set-up time involved in preparing the canner, jars and lids.
Preparing Canner, Lids and Jars
First, prepare the canner, jars and lids. You will need to assemble eight (8-ounce) jars or 4 pint jars with lids and bands for each jar. A boiling water bath canner is needed with a rack in the bottom to keep jars from touching the bottom of the pan. If you don’t own a boiling water bath canner, you can use a large kettle that is deep enough to allow water to cover the jars with at least one inch of water when they are placed in the canner and enough space for boiling. A rack placed in the bottom of the canner should hold the jars at least 1/2-inch above the bottom of the canner to allow water to circulate. The canner should have a cover which will make it easier to keep the water at a full rolling boil during the entire processing time.
Jars should be washed in warm, soapy water or they may be washed in the dishwasher. Put a medium-sized saucepan filled with water on the stove to heat and sterilize the jars, lids and bands. When the water comes to a boil, turn down the heat so the water continues to simmer. I usually dip the glass jars in the hot water and them place them, open end up, on a clean dish towel to await the hot cranberry sauce. Lids and bands are left in the hot water until time to put them on the jars filled with cranberry sauce.
Preparing Cranberry Sauce
Secondly, in a large metal saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil hard for 5 minutes. Add cranberries and return mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until all berries burst and liquid begins to sheet from a metal spoon, about 15 minutes.
Next, ladle hot sauce into jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Remove air bubbles and adjust head space, if necessary by adding hot sauce. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 4 cups water
- 8 cups fresh cranberries (2 lbs.)
- Optional: grated zest of 1 large orange
- Prepare canner, lids and jars.
- In a large metal saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil hard for 5 minutes.
- Add cranberries and return mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until all berries burst and liquid begins to sheet from a metal spoon, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in orange zest, if using, during the last few minutes of cooking.
- Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/4" head space. Remove air bubbles and adjust head space, if necessary, by adding hot sauce. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
- Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cook and store.
- This recipe also makes 4 pint jars, in the event you want pints instead of 8-oz. jars.
Cranberry Sauce isn’t just for Thanksgiving Dinner. Try it with other meats (roast beef) and try it spread on a sandwich that contains meat. I know of one deli that serves a turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce. Yum! Send a jar of homemade cranberry sauce home with family and friends who enjoyed it at your Thanksgiving table as a remembrance of a wonderful day together. A jar of homemade cranberry sauce with a holiday tag and ribbon would also make a great Christmas gift for co-workers, family or friends!
Tasty Tip: If you want to have cranberries on hand year-round, freeze them for later use. Cranberries are only in season in the fall so buy a few extra bags to freeze for future muffins, breads, and other uses. Once the holidays are over, the cranberries seem to disappear from the grocer’s shelf!
Remember to Savor the Flavor!
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