Homemade Cranberry Sauce is the easiest of recipes to make for the Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday. Best of all, almost any cranberry sauce recipe can be made several days ahead of the big holiday. One less item to think about it when it gets down to Thanksgiving day crunch time!
If you think you hate cranberry sauce because you’ve never eaten anything but canned, please give this a try. I hated cranberry sauce, too, then I made it for the first time about 15 years ago. Now, I love it and my family insists that I make it every Thanksgiving. Over the years I’ve tried a few variations and learned to experiment with my cranberry sauce recipe. It’s very simple. Just begin with a basic recipe and then add the flavorings that your family enjoys the most.
Here’s all you need to know to make homemade cranberry sauce.
Basic Recipe – Homemade Cranberry Sauce(8-12 Servings)
12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries
1 cup of liquid (water, orange juice, apple juice or cider, Cabernet or Merlot)
1 cup of sugar (use all white sugar or a combination of white and brown sugars)
Optional: Added flavorings (we’ll get to these in a moment)
Cooking Instructions for Cranberry Sauce: Combine liquid and sugar in a sauce pan on your stove. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add bag of cranberries. Reduce heat to simmer and cook liquid, sugar, and cranberries until the cranberries begin to pop and split open – usually 10 to 15 minutes. If it takes longer that is okay. You can’t hurt this stuff by overcooking. When the majority of the berries are split, remove from heat, cool to room temperature, then store in a covered container in your refrigerator. This makes your kitchen smell like the holidays, by the way!
Variations for Liquid in your Homemade Cranberry Sauce: I’ve listed some of the most common liquids that can be used in homemade cranberry sauce recipes in the basic recipe above. Some other ideas include 1/2 cup water with 1/2 cup maple syrup; 1 cup Pomegranate juice; 1 cup of 100% cranberry juice; 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup pineapple juice (use juice from a can of crushed pineapple – but not the kind in heavy syrup); 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sherry; and 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup raspberry vinegar.
The bottom line is, for each 12 ounce bag of cranberries, you’ll want 1 cup of liquid. Be creative and choose a combination of liquids that sound good to you. However, if you aren’t used to cooking with wine or other alcohol, my suggestion would be to go lighter on those liquids when making your first homemade cranberry sauce recipe from scratch. Also be sure to cook your cranberry mixture for several minutes after adding wine or liquor to allow the alcohol time to evaporate.
Variations for Sugar in your Homemade Cranberry Sauce: Some people like their cranberry sauce very sweet and some like it tart. Starting with 1 cup of sugar is a good place to begin. You may want more sugar or less. It is okay to add a little additional sugar later if the cranberry sauce isn’t sweet enough for you.
You can also use Splenda. However, it tends to make the cranberry sauce a little watery so you might want to use part Splenda and part sugar or add some cornstarch mixed in water to thicken the sauce.
Optional Flavorings for Your Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipes
Now this is where homemade cranberry sauce recipes become fun. You can stop with sugar, liquid, and cranberries or you can add some more ingredients to make your guests say, “Wow!”
Citrus Flavors for Cranberry Sauce: One of the most often added ingredients to a homemade cranberry sauce recipe is citrus flavor. Here are some options. In addition to using orange juice as the liquid in your cranberry sauce recipe also add orange zest. Use a zester or microplaner to zest two to three oranges or tangerines. Add the zest to cranberries, sugar and liquid. You can also use the juice from these oranges as your liquid (finish up with bottled orange juice or water if you don’t get enough liquid from the fresh oranges).
A can or part of a can of crushed pineapple in natural juice is also a very good addition. Again, use the natural juice from the canned pineapple as part of the liquid in the recipe.
Spices: A cinnamon stick provides that traditional holiday flavor to cranberry sauce recipes. Other spices that can be added include ground nutmeg and ground allspice. Stick with measurements of about 1/4 teaspoon for each spice for the basic homemade cranberry sauce recipe. You don’t want to overpower the taste of the cranberries with too many spices. Just enough to add a layer of interest to your homemade cranberry sauce.
Dried Fruit: Up to a cup of golden raisins would be great in homemade cranberry sauce. Or consider dried apricots (chopped). Some people add a few dried cranberries (because they are sweeter than the fresh) or some dried cherries.
Nuts: If you like some crunch to your cranberry sauce, consider adding a half cup of pecans or walnuts for flavor.
Spicy: I’m a traditionalist so I admit I have never tried this for my Thanksgiving or Christmas cranberry sauce. However, some people swear by adding one of the following: a couple of jalapenos – chopped and seeded; 2 to 3 chipotle peppers in adobo – diced; or 1 Tablespoon of prepared horseradish. If you don’t want to add this to all of your homemade cranberry sauce, consider dividing up a smaller portion for those folks who enjoy spicy food. I do think this combination sounds intriguing for day-after Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches.
If you decide to go with a spicy flavoring, I would stick with a mixture or water and possibly some sherry for my liquid, along with 1 to 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and the horseradish or peppers. No nuts or additional citrus here – unless you are really, really adventurous.
Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce Your Signature Dish
If you are the looking for something easy and quick to make from scratch, homemade cranberry sauce is an easy recipe to impress your family. You can make it ahead of time, make as little or as much as you need and it is so versatile. Serve leftover cranberry sauce over warm brie, on cream cheese and crackers, or on turkey sandwiches.
A good cranberry sauce recipe can turn your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner from humdrum to holiday hit.
Other Creative Thanksgiving and Christmas Recipes
Now that you are feeling confident about your own homemade cranberry sauce recipe, feel free to change up other holiday dishes.
Sweet Potato Casserole Recipes