Jellied Cranberry Sauce {canned or refrigerated}

Jellied Cranberry Sauce on

My almost 16 year old son (excuse me while I hyperventilate a bit over that one…) has -year after year- requested a giant Thanksgiving style feast on his birthday that falls about a week and a half before Thanksgiving. It’s his favourite meal of the year and he sees no reason to be confined to having it only once. He also sees no problem with having the gigantic meal twice in one month.

…And he knows what he likes.

Since he was able to say so, the thing he has grabbed for first from the table is the bowl of cranberry sauce. It has to be smooth. He and I both feel strongly about this. Even though Martha and legions of foodies present the beautiful relishes and whole berry sauces with the recognizable berries peeking out of it, I continue to hew the middle-America, smooth, quivering, ruby-red, can-shaped tube of sauce like the one I grew up eating. My son loves this version the very best, too. Is it nostalgia? Perhaps… but it’s what I like.

…And I know what I like.

Canned Jellied Cranberry Sauce on

But what I like very best of all is this homemade Jellied Cranberry Sauce. It has all the punch of fresh cranberries, less sugar, and a hint of orange juice all in a smooth, jelled package. Ah. Now, THIS is a good thing. That Gobble Gobble jar is just for my son. Once it has been chilled, he will sit down with a spoon and a cat-eating-yellow-jacket grin and dig in with many happy sighs.

Unmolding Jellied Cranberry Sauce at

It can be umolded like it’s cousin-in-a-can by gently running a little hot water over the outside of the jar, running a flexible, thin spatula around the inside of the jar, and plopping it onto a plate or into a bowl. If you use super fresh cranberries (not frozen) it’ll be as firm as it’s commercial counterpart. If you use frozen berries it may be just a wee touch softer set. It is still marvelous either way.

Do I have to can it?

The short answer is no. If you’re can-phobic, you can certainly pour it into jars, put the lids in place, and refrigerate it up to 10 days before serving. While I’ve not tried freezing it, I imagine the taste would hold up beautifully in the freezer. Would the jel? Couldn’t say.

Can I can it?

The short answer here is yes. I can this every year. EVERY YEAR. Make sure it’s well chilled before attempting the unmolding process. Sometimes canning can break down the pectin a wee bit. It’ll still be sauce, it just might be a little saucier than you anticipated. After canning, ours is often more like a very thick set jelly than a hard gel. I say this makes it better for spreading on leftover turkey sandwiches. The great advantage to canning it is that you can store it on pantry shelves for up to a year! Given the facts that cranberries are usually on wicked sale this time of year, and that we eat it year ’round, it makes sense to make it in massive quantities and can it up.

Why make it from scratch when I can buy it?

One more short answer and then I’ll stop with the short answers: because you can. Ahem. Sorry. But really, I do this because I like the taste better, I like the fact that I know what went into it, and I like that it’s less sweet than the commercial counterpart.


5.0 from 1 reviews
Jellied Cranberry Sauce {canned or refrigerated}
Delicious, nutritious homemade Jellied Cranberry Sauce with a hint of orange is just what your cranberry sauce lovers want at the Thanksgiving table!
Serves: 4 cups, give or take a bit.
  • 4 (12 ounce) bags fresh cranberries
  • 4 cups sugar (I use raw sugar)
  • The juice of one orange plus enough water to equal 4 cups
  • The zest of 1 orange
  1. Combine the sugar, orange juice, zest and water in big stockpot over high heat. Bring to a boil. Add the cranberries and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and boil gently for 10 minutes while the cranberries pop open.
  2. Pour into a fine-mesh sieve over a heat-proof bowl until all that remains is a paste of little twiggy bits and seeds from the cranberries and orange zest. Pour into sterile canning jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe the rims, place new lids on the jars, and screw the rings into place until finger-tip tight.
  3. Store in the refrigerator OR place the jars filled with hot cranberry sauce in a canner and cover with hot water. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes, whether in a pint, pint and a half, or quart sized jar. Turn off the heat, remove the lid from the canner and let the jars remain in the water for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack or towel to cool overnight, undisturbed. Wipe the jars down, label them, and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.


  1. Katie says

    Would it have to be strained? As long as there weren’t any twiggy bits, would it end up being like whole berry sauce?

  2. Shirley says

    How many pints of the finished product will this make? I make whole cranberry sauce but have a couple folks that like the can-shaped jellied stuff. I will be making this!

  3. Karen B says

    I’m in agreement with your son. As soon as November hits I crave turkey dinner. So last Sunday I did a smaller version with a turkey breast. My 3 year old Granddaughter fell in love with the jellied cranberry sauce from the can. I told my son you need to buy that girl more cranberries. Silly me I forgot it came in a CAN and they only eat things from a CAN once in a while. So here I am today and I come and check out your blog and my Granddaughter’s love for cranberries can continue!! LOL I’m making these as soon I get my hands on fresh cranberries….Thanks again! Also since I typing….Pickle Dip Friday for Pampered Chef party!!!!

  4. says

    You know I’ve been making my own for four (four?) years now, but chunky not smooth… this year I am going to do it your way. Smooth. Jarred ahead, plopped out in one pieces and cut into large chunks. Love it.

  5. jessie sis says

    I love that this one has no junk in it, like the one on the store shelves. I am thrilled to try canning it this year!

    • says

      Hooray! I held my breath a little posting this because people are (VERY) opinionated about cranberry sauce and I didn’t want the whole berry mafia to come at me! 😀

  6. says

    My younger brothers Birthday is the 24th and he does the very same thing. Request a feast!! Only he would never eat cranberry sauce. :(
    Too bad! This look awesome and I have to make it!

    • says

      I’ve never tried it, Sandra, but I imagine it might work. Cranberries are so full of natural pectin! If you give it a try, would you let me know how you like it?

    • Billy says

      I attempted this with granulated splenda last night and it turned out more like a jam. Never jellied, just got thicker. I did it again tonight with the sugar and could tell a noticeable difference in how it was cooking before ever putting it in a jar and could tell a HUGE difference after I was strained and ready for the jar. My advice, don’t use straight Splenda. A mixture may work, maybe 50/50, but I don’t think I’ll be trying that.

    • clay says

      No. Do not use splenda or other artificial sweeteners when making a food that needs to set up. The sugar is an integral part of it going from a sauce to a jelly.
      If you really want to replace the sugar, try toying with the recipe. Add fine diced green apples or pectin in order to make it stand without the sugar. Be careful, it wouldn’t take a lot of pectin, especially with cranberries.
      Unless you have acute health issues I wouldn’t suggest using splenda ever. It’s not healthier- it’s just not good for you in different ways than sugar is.

  7. Daina says

    I’m totally going to try this. Especially since I just acquired another dozen jelly canning jars that are just screaming to be filled!

  8. says

    I made the cranberry sauce last night–delicious! BUT, mine is much more sauce–and not firm. What would you suggest we try for round 2 with girlfriends tonight?

  9. Daina says

    Mine is processing right now. :) When you say boil so the cranberries pop – wow – they really do pop! I ended up with enough after straining for 5 half pints, but then I saw all that lovely cranberry paste, and being one that hates to waste stuff, I plunked the pasty leftovers into 2 pint jars (with a little leftover for the frig) and tossed them in the processing bath too. I figure that will go lovely spread on leftover turkey sandwiches too.

    By the way, my favorite comment in your recipe : “why should I make it from scratch when I can buy it from the store? – Because I can!” Love it! (and that’s why I do it). I seriously need to adopt a large family who will help me consume all my canned stuff.

    Thanks for the recipe – I came for the candied jalapenos. I stayed for the joy of reading all your recipes. <3

  10. says

    Pectin needs sugar to set up – most recipes won’t work quite right with even reduced sugars. In fact, when bottled pectin first came out, one selling point was that you could use less sugar, and boil the fruit less, so you got more and fresher tasting jelly from your fruit with less sugar… (Talking about peaches and such, with less natural pectin than cranberries.)

    However, there is now packaged pectin that doesn’t require sugar. Pomona’s Pectin, and also one made by Ball, that I know of. I haven’t used it, yet, but I wonder if that might be an option for people who want a sugar free version.

    I prefer chunky sauces and chutneys and relishes, myself – but I have friends who long for the canned jellied sauce they now avoid… This might be a nice gift item, if I make it work well. Thanks for the idea!

  11. Diana says

    Thank you for posting this. I just made a batch and it tastes great! It hasn’t set up yet but it’s already thickening as it cools. I did mine with 3 cups of sugar and the juice of 2 oranges and water to make 4C. Tastes sweet enough but still nice and tangy. Also stick blended it and still strained it. What a beautiful color!

    My jellied-cranberry-sauce-nut daughter will be very happy and you’ll get full credit at the table Thursday.

    Thanks again and Happy Thanksgiving!

  12. kjh says

    Definitely didn’t get this one right last night. I think that my fear of overly aggressive heating (see: reduction of apple pie juices fiasco of last week) meant we didn’t truly let the mixture “boil”, perhaps it was more of a simmer. Sorry, boyfriend! You were right! Ended up with four pints of runny stuff and a blind hope that it would magically set. Rookies. :)
    It was fun, though. I’m going to try to make time to get a half-recipe done this evening. And perhaps enjoy a little of our now-cocktail mix. 😀 Thanks for the recipe. Making your cornbread stuffing, too!

  13. Jen L says

    I’m so excited! My first attempt and it is popping away! I love how it smells. I am leaving it chunky because the kids love the whole cranberry version best. Thanks much!

  14. says

    I’m generally of the whole berry variety person just because I hate to waste things (like pulp) but you made this look so good and I thought it would be a great gift idea. Some of it is canning away now, and some is going straight into the fridge. It’s delicious. But now I have three cups of beautiful looking pulp left… Not seedy, no sticks… any suggestions?
    I think I’m going to stick it in the freezer while I mull this over. Maybe some yummy conserve or something?

    • says

      Try putting it back in the pan and reducing it further. Make sure it’s at a good solid boil and not a gentle simmer… You’ll also want to be sure to keep stirring the bottom well so that it doesn’t scorch!

      • Debbie Buch says

        Mine didn’t gel either and I got 5 pints–see below. I did press out the berries in the sieve but how would that be different that just pureeing the whole batch and canning that?

        So should I unseal the processed jars of ‘syrup’ and put them back on the burner to reduce? I like the syrup but still would prefer some jars of the jellied berries that I wanted in the first place.

        Is there any problem with keeping some of the processed jars of syrup to use on ice cream or pancakes? I put the juice of a large orange in there with the zest so I hope that’s enough acid. to be food safe.

        • says

          There’s not a thing in the world wrong with keeping some of that. It sounds delicious!!!!! Now, as for the ‘syrup’ you’d like to jel… you have a couple of options. You can use some Knox unflavoured gelatine to set it up or you could unseal the jars, pop it on the burner, and reduce, stirring carefully to prevent scorching until it reaches gel stage. (Like you’re making old-fashioned jam.) The Knox version would be far faster, but the reduction version would be more old-fashioned.

          • Debbie Buch says

            Oh happy day! I went to unseal my second try at the jelled cranberries to reprocess them and SURPRISE they had jelled! So now I have one batch of jelled and one of syrup–for pancakes and ice cream. yum……..Also am considering giving some as gifts but I will have to talk myself into giving them up haha

            I am thrilled and retiring my canner for the time being. oh yeah! thanks so much for all you do.

  15. Debbie Buch says

    I made this per directions and got 5 pints instead of 4 cups. It’s jelling and sealing. It’s all good but I am unclear about why I got so much. Ideas? thanks

  16. tara says

    I was so excited for this but left quite bummed. My sauce seemed thick enough when I poured it into jars but hasn’t really thickened into a jelly from Wednesday night. I too am going to reheat and reduce and see where that gets me. I’d like to know what it looks like, thickness stage wise before it gets jarred. Is it already somewhat jellied or just a thick reduction? I’ve never made jelly or canned but am pretty baking and cooking savvy.

  17. Linda Martin says

    I made this for Thanksgiving. It was a huge hit. It didn’t gel, but that didn’t make a difference. And I actually decided to ‘crush’ the cranberries and leave them in. I will be making this again! oh and I only made 1/4 of the recipe and had no problems at all.

  18. Cathy says

    I’m making cranberry jelly for gifts – tastes wonderful! But I don’t have a canner. Can I just boil the 4 oz canning jars in a pot for 15 minutes? I have never canned before. Where does the water come up to on the jar? Thanks for any help.

    • Penny says

      @Cathy, I’ve read that you don’t want your jars sitting directly on the pan bottom. Perhaps a washcloth under them if I remember correctly. Water needs to cover jars by an inch or 2.

    • Penny says

      Pennyy, I’ve read that you don’t want your jars sitting directly on the pan bottom. Perhaps a washcloth under them if I remember correctly. Water needs to cover jars by an inch or 2.

    • says

      Hi Tara- Add the zest at the beginning with the rest of the ingredients. 😀 (I noticed it wasn’t in the recipe either, except at the ‘strain out’ bit. Thank you for the heads up. I fixed it.)

  19. Sherri P says

    I made this for Thanksgiving dinner, since we all prefer jellied sauce. I was excited that I could make my own, as I had never seen a recipe for it before. I had a can of the store bought stuff chilling in case the recipe failed or somebody missed the old standard. No need, it was never opened and the homemade sauce was a big hit. I cannot believe how easy it was to make and how great it tastes! I even sent a jar home with a very satisfied friend. This will now be a yearly go-to. Thanks so much!

  20. Patricia Gensemer says

    I wish I found this BEFORE Thanksgiving! I have a son the same who will eat cranberry sauce straight from the can. I tried making my own, and it came out a little too sweet because the recipe I found has twice the sugar this one has! I’ll be making a quarter batch tomorrow to see if he will accept the addition of orange juice and zest.

  21. Bonnie Satterthwaite says

    I did not see fruit pectin in the ingredients list, but you mentioned it in the article. Is it necessary to made the sauce jell?

    Love the idea of making my own, just to say I did!

  22. Megan Spencer says

    I make cranberry sauce but leave it in the fridge overnight before serving. I plan on canning the sauce this year for my family so we can have it for easter since cranberry’s aren’t in season then. If I am going to can would I skip the fridge step?

    • says

      I’m not sure, Megan… I’m not familiar with the recipe you’re using. I can only really speak for this recipe and methodology in particular. 😀

        • says

          Ah, well if it is exactly the same as this recipe, I would skip the fridge step… I really can only speak to this one particularly, though, since it is the one I tested. I know acidity plays some roll in naturally occurring pectin’s power, so I hesitate to assure you that it would behave the same way without it.

  23. Jada says

    My mom used to make this but used celery, an entire orange…and black English walnuts ground fine. It was chunky and wonderful!!

  24. sonya chamblee says

    I made this yesterday, I got 4 pints out of the recipe, all sealed and set, thanks so much for this recipe, going to do 4 more pints tomorrow.

  25. Kimberly K says

    This looks GOOD! I’ve been trying to wean my husband off the canned stuff for a couple of years now but he keeps insisting we have the canned stuff on the table. This year, we’re going to make the switch :-) ! No canned sauce as backup either…

    • says

      Hi Anisah- It should start gelling up as it cools… As soon as it is “cold” it should be fully gelled. I often make it the day before with good results!

  26. Melissa Murphy says

    I just stumbled upon your blog last night.. I lost HOURS of my life. In an amazing way! I am hosting my very first thanksgiving this year- and this recipe was so easy! I decided to whip it up a few days early to save myself some time. I ended up with five good size mason jars. Which I was shocked at because I could not stop eating a spoon here and there. Seriously delicious and so easy to cook! Especially for those of us that have zero skills! :)

    • says

      You are so sweet, Melissa. I’m so glad you are digging the cranberry sauce. It feels a little like alchemy, doesn’t it? It’s so satisfying to have something so simple turn out so spectacular. 😀

    • says

      Hi Dashielle- Have you chilled the sauce to see if it sets up then? If not, you may have accidentally purchased a bag of older cranberries with less naturally occurring pectin. You can save what you’ve already worked with by preparing it like you would gelatin. You can buy unsweetened/unflavoured Knox gelatin and follow the instructions for gelling juice. Simply sub the cranberry liquid in for the juice.

  27. Kimberly K says

    I did finally make a single bag batch of sauce for Thanksgiving – it was SOOOOO good! Came out of the jar as nice as you please and got many compliments on it. I have a few more bags of cranberries set aside for more sauce and will can those for yummy eating through the year :-) !


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