Recipe: Handmade Cranberry Sauce

Preserving fruit in any manner can take quite a bit of time and generate a lot of dirty quipment for cleanup. And while I’d made jams and jellies many times over the years, making cranberry sauce for the holidays had never really come to mind. Now, I love cranberries, particularly the more pure juices for drinking and whole cranberry sauce for eating. At one time Ocean Spray had a cranberry museum near Plymouth, Massachusetts, which I visited in May of 1991. It wasn’t until then that I really understood why only certain cranberries could be labeled as “fresh”.

In the fall of 2018 Mary and I were visiting the hard cider taproom at Ricker Hill Farms in Tucker, Maine, when I found myself really looking at a bag of their own fresh cranberries. The berries looked better than most so, curious, I flipped the bag over. Looking at the recipe on the back of the bag, I finally realized how simple making the sauce would be.

While the recipe calls for 1 to 2 cups of sugar I elected to use the lower amount as I’d rather taste the cranberries, not the sugar. I also elected to use a raw cane sugar to fall in line more with the fresh cranberries. In places such Michigan where sugar made from sugar beets is available, that would also be an excellent choice.

This process is so simple that, as long as you’re paying attention while the sauce is boiling, this recipe should work correctly every time. And the flavor is far better than any canned cranberries I’ve had. Be sure to use local cranberies when they’re available, but really any cranberries labeled correctly as “fresh” should be alright.

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is so simple and inexpensive to make, there is no reason to buy it canned besides convenience.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time9 minutes
Total Time14 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Christmas, cranberry, holiday, sauce, side, Thanksgiving
Servings: 4


  • 12 oz Cranberries, whole
  • 1 cup Sugar Raw cane sugar or sugar made from sugar beets will work best
  • 1 cup Water


  • Combine the ingredients in a 2 quart sauce pan and stir.
  • Bring to a boil, and start a 9-minute timer.
  • Stir every minute or so to prevent sticking, reducing heat to keep the foam down while maintaining a boil. The shells of the berries will begin to "pop" after a minute or so. Late in the 9 minutes, the boil will become a hard simmer.
  • When the timer goes off, immediately remove from the heat and stir. Allow to cool before pouring into a glass bowl or dish.
  • Chill and serve.


  • If you prefer the smoother "jellied" sauce, after cooling purée the sauce with a stand blender or immersion blender.
  • Suggestions include replacing some or all of the water with bourbon, rum, champagne, better orange juice, or ading chopped pecans or walnuts, cloves, star anise, or orange zest.

1 Comment

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  1. Carolyn Bingle Douglas

    So glad to know I am not the only one who makes cranberries “from scratch”. It’s the only way I’ve ever had them. So easy to do
    Thanks for the encouragement.

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