If you have never made homemade cranberry sauce, you are missing out! My cranberry and fruit sauce is easy to make and better than anything in a can.
Love it or hate, you probably grew up eating cranberry sauce (or worse, cranberry jelly) from a tin can and it really was the stuff of jokes. It started, of course, with that schluuurrrrp sound as the cylindrical blob can sliding out of the can. To make it look even remotely appetizing, you had to smush it up in the bowl to remove the tin can marks.
Or maybe your mother totally embraced the can and served it in all its cylindrical … glory?
Homemade cranberry sauce isn’t like that.
Well, it could be, I suppose, but it doesn’t have to be.
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Bring homemade Cranberry Sauce to a Christmas party and you are sure to be invited again and again (so be very careful where you take it!). Family members will gush over your homemade Cranberry Sauce which is made with so much love they can taste it in every bite.
It’s that good.
Before I say another word, I want to tell you that this recipe comes from my cookbook A Cabin Full of Food. In it, there are recipes for using homemade Cranberry Sauce in other dishes, too. It’s useful.
To make a batch to can, you will need six 12-ounce bags of fresh cranberries. Or, if you are lucky enough to buy them fresh from a farmer, get 4 1/2 pounds.
Have you noticed, by the way, that one-pound bags of cranberries now hold only 12 ounces? The price keeps going up, though. If the option is available to you, find a farmer who grows them. You’ll pay much less and get fresher berries.
You will also need some oranges, tart apples, sugar or honey and a bit of molasses.
It should be noted that you can certainly use brown sugar instead of white sugar plus molasses. The molasses that most of us buy today is white sugar with a bit of molasses (1-2 tablespoons molasses per cup of sugar) added back in.
You can test it for yourself. Use a fork to blend 1 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons molasses. Congratulations – you’ve just made brown sugar at a much lower price.
You can’t see them, but my boiling water bath is full of boiling water and half-pint jars. I added all of my jars, covered them with water and heated it up. When it was boiling, I moved it off the stove. I don’t have a lot of space on the stove – only one big pot fits.
This is what 6 bags of cranberries look like in my pot. In case you’re wondering, I do not recommend increasing this recipe more. 4 1/2 pounds of berries is the maximum if you want the sauce to thicken and gel properly.
How do I know this? Because I tried doing 10 pounds at once and I ended up with slightly gelled cranberry juice with floating berries. It was not good, and it never turned into homemade Cranberry Sauce.
Once the berries are out of the bags, pick through them. Yucky ones are pretty obvious.
Zest an orange and chop up the pulp.
I’ve never used an apple corer before. Neat device. I should clean out my junk drawer more often. I might find other useful stuff hiding in there.
After chopping up four apples, I decided that that was plenty. That’s why there are five apples pictured at the beginning.
Add four cups of sugar. Some recipes call for more. However, the orange and the apples are pretty sweet. I also added four cups of water. Again, there’s a lot of liquid in the fruit.
Now just let it cook. I’ve never timed it. The berries will start popping – that’s what you’re looking for. In fact, the sauce isn’t done until all of the berries have popped.
While the fruit is cooking, put the lids on to heat. Rings don’t need to be heated. Remember – despite what your mom says about boiling the lids for five minutes, that is no longer recommended. Bring the water just to a boil and turn it off. Leave them in the hot water until ready to can.
Can you see the difference? Of course you can. Without Smell-O-Vision, you can’t tell how wonderful my kitchen is smelling, though. I had trouble getting the kids to bed, though, and now it’s 9:23, so I wish they’d cook a little faster.
All of that froth means that most of the berries have popped and released their yumminess. At this point, it’s just a matter of letting your homemade Cranberry Sauce thicken a little. You can’t really tell how thick it will be, though, because it’s very thin and watery at this point. I can tell you, though, that the fruit contained plenty of liquid. Four cups of water was more than enough.
Now it’s time to can this stuff!
Use your can lifter to take jars out of the boiling water. It is very easy to get boiling water dripping down the lifter and onto your hand. Try to avoid that.
And if you do get boiling water on yourself, try not to drop the jar. That will just make things worse.
Use a wide-mouth funnel that’s specially intended for filling canning jars. I use a yucky plastic one, but I really want a metal one.
Use something non-metal to poke down the sauce and remove any air bubbles.
The ring should be put on HAND tight. There was recently a discussion on the Canning2 list about it, and many of us thought that they were to be finger-tight. The manufacturers actually recommend that you tight them up fairly well, but only as tightly as you can reasonably do with your hand.
How it works in reality – unless you have no hand strength at all, you’re best using your fingers to tighten.
Back into the boiling water and let it bubble – 15 minutes for these little half-pints.
NOW – let me make this clear. This is not a standard Mason jar. It is, in fact, a vintage Crown jar. The date of manufacture stamped on the bottom is 1935. It has a glass lid, a rubber ring, and a gorgeously embossed front, and it is a completely unsafe method of canning, not recommended by anyone.
Before anyone panics, I will be storing this jar of homemade Cranberry Sauce in my fridge and serving it this Saturday for Christmas dinner.
Final count – 13 half-pint jars, some of which are destined for Christmas gifts, one quart jar for Christmas dinner and one pint jar – not pictured – of leftover sauce, which was immediately placed in the fridge and which will be used tomorrow at lunchtime for Rosy Meatballs. (I think I need to rework my menu plan for this week.) Every one of the small jars has successfully sealed. Tomorrow morning, I will remove the rings and label the jars.
Quick note – this made a very sharp sauce. Delicious, but it has a bite to it. If you want it sweeter, increase the sugar. The best thing to do – before canning it, spoon a little onto a plate, let it cool and then taste it. On the other hand, my preschooler tasted it this morning and said, “Tastes like … jam!” and then wanted to sit down and eat a jar of it with a spoon.
- 6 12 ounce bags of cranberries
- 1 navel orange
- 4 Spartan apples
- 4 cup sugar
- 2 Tb molasses
- This is as simple as it gets. Check the berries for soft, squishy or freaky-colored ones and discard.
- Zest the orange. Peel off the white pith and chop the pulp. Core and chop the apples.
- Add everything to a very large pot.
- Simmer and stir until all of the berries have popped. That will ensure that your homemade cranberry sauce thickens.
- Ladle your cranberry sauce into hot, sterilized jars. Add NEW lids heated according to the manufacturer's directions, then add rings hand-tight. Process in a boiling water bath - 15 minutes for half-pints and pints; 20 minutes for quarts.
- Remove to a towel on the counter. After 12-24 hours, check the seals, remove the rings, label and store.