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Canning Cranberry Sauce

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Canning cranberry sauce to have it ready on time for the Thanksgiving meal or Christmas dinner is easy. This homemade sauce is quick to make and has more flavor than any store-bought brand.

close up ruby red homemade cranberry sauce in a jar.

Do you want to save some precious time on Thanksgiving? Preparing this huge holiday meal takes a lot of time and energy, so having a few items ready in advance means a lot. Canning cranberry sauce a few days, weeks, or even months in advance is practical and easy.

And should you happen to make a few extra jars and can them, you can give them to your friends for Christmas; for instance, this homemade cranberry sauce for canning makes a wonderful, delicious gift for the holiday season.

The best about this sauce?

  • Once you’ve seen how delicious and easy canning cranberry sauce is, you’ll never go back to store-bought.
  • It tastes fantastic, a perfect balance of sweet and sour, so much better than a can of cranberry sauce. It’s not overly sweet like the canned stuff, and it is full of flavor. Using star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and chili flakes is worth it! You will love every spoonful of it.
  • Easy recipe: This cranberry sauce recipe for canning is so simple; all you must do is mix the ingredients and fill the jars.
  • Quick: It takes about 20 minutes to cook the sauce and another 10 to preserve it.
  • Make in advance: That is probably the best about it! You can make days in advance and refrigerate it or months in advance and can or freeze it.
  • Perfect for turkey: Try it Dutch Oven Turkey, Red Wine Turkey, Turkey Wings, or Slow-Cooked Turkey Breast. And check out our Best 12 Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes while you’re at it.

Recipe ingredients

cranberries, sugar, apple juice, orange, spices and vinegar in bowls on the table.
  • Fresh cranberries (or frozen). If frozen, let them defrost for about an hour or so, or you can use them directly from frozen.
  • Sugar: I use plain white sugar, 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons. If you like it sweeter, you can add up to one scant cup of sugar. You can also make it with less sugar, about 1/2 cup, but I would not go any lower than that. Brown sugar is great as well.
  • Oranges: You will need its juice and zest, so it is preferable to use an organic, unwaxed orange. You need 120 ml/ ½ cup of orange juice; this means the juice of one or two larger oranges depending on their size.
  • Apple juice: Preferably unsweetened. If you don’t want to buy extra apple juice, but you did already buy a bag of oranges, feel free to use more oranges instead of apple juice.
  • Apple cider vinegar: This sort fits the cranberry sauce for canning well, but if you don’t have to use red wine vinegar or basically any vinegar you have.
  • Spices: Warm spices perfect for the holiday season like star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, red chili flakes, fine sea salt, black pepper.

How to make cranberry sauce?

  • Prepare oranges: Wash the oranges with hot water. Dry them well and zest them. Halve and juice them.
  • Make syrup: Combine sugar, orange zest and juice, apple juice, vinegar, and spices in a medium saucepan (1). Let come to a boil on medium-high heat, often stirring to help dissolve the sugar. Turn the heat down and simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes without a lid, occasionally stirring with a wooden spoon (2).
collage of two pictures of cooking sugars syrup with spices.
  • Cook berries: In the meantime, wash cranberries. Add them to the pot (3), and cover, leaving a crack open. It is best to cover the pot because the berries might “jump” out of the pot once they start popping. Once they stop popping, remove the lid.
  • Simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring several times in between (4).
collage of two pictures of cooking cranberries in a silver pot.
  • Sterilize the jars (if you plan to can the sauce) while the sauce is simmering. Let drain upside down on a clean towel until ready to use.
  • Adjust the taste of the sauce with a little more salt if necessary. Remove the whole spices. You can mash the soft berries with a potato masher if you like, but I never do.
  • Fill the jars with the whole berry sauce leaving about 2 cm/ ¾ inch headspace. Close the lids tightly.

How to can the sauce?

  • The procedure for cranberry sauce canning is easy.
  • Place the jars in the simmering water in the water bath canner. Cover and bring to a boil.
  • Simmer: Once the water starts simmering again, can the jars for 15 minutes.
  • Rest: Turn off the heat, but leave the jars of hot sauce in the canner for another 5 minutes.
  • Remove using a jar lifter to avoid burning yourself with the hot water.
  • Cool: Place jars on a folded kitchen towel and let cool completely.
  • Check the seals before transferring to the pantry or cellar. Keep any jar that didn’t seal in the refrigerator or freeze it.
overhead view of cranberry sauce in a jar with star anise and cinnamon sticks beside it.

Expert tips and FAQ

  • Spices: If you don’t care about the spices, leave them out. I prefer using them for extra flavor, but canning cranberry sauce without them will still be tasty.
  • The jars should be hot or very warm when you fill them. If they are cold, they might crack when you fill them with the hot cranberry sauce.
  • Use a jar lifter to handle the hot jars and lids, and wear mitts to avoid burning your hands.
  • This recipe makes about 3 small jars of sauce or 4-5 generous cups.

Recipe FAQ

Do I have to sterilize the jars?

If you don’t can the jars, sterilize them first. Place them in a large pot, cover them with water and boil them for 10 minutes. Remove them from the water shortly before filling and let them drain upside down on a very clean kitchen towel. Sterilize lids in boiling water for 5 minutes.
If you can them, you don’t have to sterilize them. According to the latest research, you don’t have to sterilize jars before canning as long as you can them for at least 10 minutes. However, they must be squeaky clean, including the lids. I prefer to wash them in the dishwasher shortly before I need them and leave them there until ready to fill. Keeping them in the closed dishwater will keep them warm as well.

Do I have to can the sauce?

No, I only can it if I make at least the double batch. Otherwise, I keep it in the fridge, or I freeze it.

How long does it keep?

Refrigerator: For one week and up to 10 days. Once you’ve opened a jar, try to consume the whole cranberry sauce within 3-4 days.
Freezer: For at least 6 months. If you freeze the sauce, don’t screw the lids on top very tightly. Instead, place them loosely on top and only close them once the sauce is solid.
Canned: For at least 6 months in the pantry, cellar, or another cool, dark place.

How to serve the sauce?

You can serve it at room temperature or heat it gently before serving. Reheat it in a small pan stirring frequently. Add a tiny splash of water or juice to help it loosen a bit.
Serve with roasted turkey, chicken, or other meats.
Use it to make sandwiches with leftover turkey.

close up homemade cranberry sauce with a spoon in it and another jar behind.

More Thanksgiving side dishes:

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close up ruby red homemade cranberry sauce in a jar.

Canning Cranberry Sauce

Canning cranberry sauce to have it ready on time for Thanksgiving is easy. This homemade sauce is quick to make and has more flavor than any store-bought brand.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dishes
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 3 small jars
Calories: 325kcal
Author: Adina

Equipment

  • Saucepan
  • Water bath canner

Ingredients 

  • 1 lb cranberries fresh or frozen (Note 1)
  • 2 oranges juice and zest (Note 2)
  • ¼ cup apple juice unsweetened (Note 3)
  • ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar Note 4
  • 2 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar Note 5
  • 1 star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt or Kosher more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions

Cranberry sauce:

  • Prepare oranges: Wash the oranges with hot water. Dry them well and zest them. Then, halve and juice them; you will need 1/2 cup/ 120 ml juice.
  • Syrup: Place sugar, orange zest and juice, apple juice, vinegar, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, salt, and pepper in a pot. Bring to a boil, often stirring to help dissolve the sugar. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer the sauce for 10 minutes without a lid, stirring occasionally.
  • Cook cranberries: In the meantime, wash the cranberries. Add them to the pot. Cover leaving a crack open. It is best to cover the pot because the berries might “jump” out of the pot once they start popping. Once they stop popping, remove the lid.
    Simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often.
  • Adjust the taste of the sauce with a little more salt if necessary.
  • Fill the hot/warm jars leaving about ¾ inch/ 2 cm headspace (Note 7). Close the lids tightly.

Sterilize jars:

  • If not canning the sauce, sterilize the jars while the sauce is simmering. Let drain upside down on a clean towel until ready to use (Note 6). You don’t have to sterilize the jars if you can the sauce; just make sure they are super clean.

Can the sauce (Note 8):

  • Boil: Place the closed jars in the simmering water in the water bath canner. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the water starts simmering again, can the jars for 15 minutes.
  • Rest: Turn off the heat, but leave the jars in the canner for another 5 minutes. Remove using a jar lifter to avoid burning yourself with the hot water.
  • Let cool: Place jars on a folded kitchen towel and let cool completely.
  • Check the seals before transferring to the pantry or cellar. Keep any jar that didn’t seal in the refrigerator or freeze it.

Notes

  1. If using frozen cranberries, defrost them for a couple of hours or use them frozen. In this case, add a few more minutes to the cooking time.
  2. Preferably organic and unwaxed oranges. You will need the zest and ½ cup/ 120 ml juice.
  3. You can replace the apple juice with more orange juice if you don’t have any.
  4. Brown sugar is great as well.
  5. Apple cider vinegar works best, but you can replace it with another kind of vinegar.
  6. Place them in a large pot, cover them with water and boil them for 10 minutes. Remove them from the water shortly before filling and let them drain upside down on a very clean kitchen towel. Sterilize lids in boiling water for 5 minutes.
  7. The jars should be hot or very warm when you fill them. If they are cold, they might crack when you fill them with the hot sauce.
  8. Canning is optional. You can also refrigerate the sauce for one week and up to 10 days or freeze it for at least 6 months.
  9. Canned sauce will keep in the pantry or cellar for at least 6 months. Once you’ve opened a jar, refrigerate it and consume it within a few days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1jar | Calories: 325kcal | Carbohydrates: 83g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 208mg | Potassium: 340mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 67g | Vitamin A: 393IU | Vitamin C: 67mg | Calcium: 68mg | Iron: 1mg
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Recipe Rating




Andria Williams

Tuesday 30th of November 2021

This sounds wonderful. My only concern is the chili flakes. Too spicy???

Adina

Wednesday 1st of December 2021

Hi Andria. We found it pleasantly spicy, not too much so. But it's a matter of taste and of the chili flakes you have; some are hotter than others. You can leave them out if you don't like them.