Guest Post: Bake or Buy – Cranberry Sauce


Guest Post: Bake or Buy – Cranberry Sauce

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Note from Nick:  Today I’m posting a guest post from Bethany over at Bake or Buy.  Her posts are similar to my homemade trials posts where I try to figure out whether it makes sense to make something from scratch or not.  She tackles a big holiday side item today:  Cranberry sauce.  She included a recipe for a simple and tasty homemade version also.

I thought this was a really interesting post just because I know people who will choose canned cranberry sauce over a delicious homemade version every single time.

Anyway, take it away Bethany!

I know… I’m just asking to make some enemies with this one. There is a clear line between those who like their sauce from a can (still in the shape of it even) or chunky and fresh.

Basic Cranberry Sauce

Makes about 2 cups
Prep Time:
Total Time:
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1 bag cranberries (12 ounce)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/6 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup orange juice
pinch cinnamon


1) Combine all the ingredients in a medium pot over medium-high heat and cook for 15-20 minutes. Use a spatula to smash the berries to help them cook down.

2) Once the mixture is cooked down and thick, let it cool and either at room temperature or chill it for a thicker sauce.

The Store Brand

Ocean Spray – I bought both Jellied and Whole Berry.

Making the Sauce

Homemade cranberry sauce is surprisingly easy to make. Put all the ingredients in a pan and just let them cook down over medium heat for about 15 minutes. I was using fresh oranges, but I realized my oranges didn’t have quite enough juice, so I ended up using half store bought juice.

And once it’s all said and done you’ll be left with a nice thick sauce that you can either serve at room temperature or chilled (mine’s on the right):

And if you have to have the can shape:

The Breakdown

Interestingly enough, the whole berry and jellied cranberry sauce had the exact same ingredients – cranberries, high fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup. One is just emulsified and one’s not.

So I win nutrition right there.

As far as taste and consistency goes, my cranberry sauce actually jelled up a lot more than I thought it would as it cooled.

It was really thick and delicious.  I bet you could even use a hand blender and shape it like a can if you had to!

The actual canned jellied version is totally out – I knew that was true for me, I need the chunk.

Head-to-head on the whole berry version? Homemade crushes the taste category. It’s fresh and tart, and the hint of citrus makes it. Period.

The canned was oversweetened, so you didn’t even get a good feel for the tartness of the cranberries.

And the cost? Here’s the breakdown!

Ok. So it actually costs more to make your own. But aside from Thanksgiving, how often do you have cranberry sauce? Treat your guests for the holiday!

So, Bake or Buy?  BAKE!

Bonus Recipe

On a side note, what did I do with all that cranberry sauce? I’m still trying to get rid of an influx of apples, so I made cran-apple crisp. Mix a batch of that fresh cranberry sauce with 4 sliced apples and top with your favorite crisp topping (my recipe for crisp topping:  1/2 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 4 tablespoons butter)!

Fork the crisp ingredients together and spread over the top of the apple/cranberry mixture. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Eat warm! Wish I would have shot a picture of this – it’s just GORGEOUS! :)

Note from Nick:  I’m a freakin’ huge homemade cranberry sauce fan, but it can definitely be a contentious issue.  I know people that define Thanksgiving by having a can of cranberry sauce on the table.  It’s not even debatable.

Where do you stand?  Homemade or store bought?  Leave a comment!

20 Responses to “Guest Post: Bake or Buy – Cranberry Sauce” Leave a comment

  1. I like homemade, but I got the canned whole berries this year since it’s my first time hosting turkey day and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with how many dishes I’m cooking. So subbing in canned cranberries saved me a bit of stress.

    For future reference, though, do you have a good homemade sauce recipe without orange juice? My in-laws have citrus allergies, so I try to be a good hostess and not serve dishes that will cause them to stop breathing. :)

    1. The original Ocean Spray recipe has nothing but berries, sugar and water. Everything else is bonus. I would just leave out the orange juice and proceed as directed. Hope this helpsl.

  2. I’m guilty of only eating the canned version. Why? Because I hate how sour/bitter cranberries are. I can only tolerate them if they’re doused in sugar (and honestly, I often wish that they added more sugar!) And, I prefer the smooth texture of the canned kind. I know, I know….I’m weird.

    1. You can’t be that weird, or they wouldn’t still be selling canned, jellied sauce, now would they? Enjoy! No worries. “:-)

    2. Not weird at all! My family requires it every year. THey wouldn’t make it if people didn’t buy and love it.

      I actually like it also. I go back and forth… ;)

  3. Definitely homemade! In fact, I just took mine off the stove — I make a spiced version with allspice berries, cloves, cinnamon, black peppercorns and red pepper flakes. And some cognac thrown in — everyone loves it and I’ve evne converted canned sauce eaters!

  4. To make homemade jellied cranberry sauce, all you need to do is squish the sauce down through a strainer. It takes some time once the mesh starts filling up with cranberry skins, but the end result is just as smooth as canned. In fact, you can even pour it into a can if you must have “that shape.” I’ve done it before with a big empty soup can to make a giant one. So fuN!

  5. I am the family designated cranberry sauce maker (served in Grandma’s blue bowl, of course.) After working on my recipe for a few years, my brother declared that he didn’t like “all that other stuff.” Actually, some years no one ate the sauce at all, but if the blue bowl were missing, I’d certainly hear about it. My secret ingredient is Grand Marnier. One year my sister-in-law made cobbler with the left-overs. I thought that was a genius idea. Happy Holiday season to all. “:-)

  6. Never had homemade cran sauce, but I sure would love to try it….

    I always prefer homemade stuff to the store bought anyway, so I’m gonna say


  7. I make the cranberry sauce. Yes, it is more costly, and slightly more work, but I think the effort is worth it. I make mine with apple juice and diced apples, cinnamon stick and a tiny bit of sugar just take the bitter edge off. Not everyone loves my cranberry apple relish, so the leftover gets stirred it into oatmeal, used ice cream topping or spread on toast for breakfast.

  8. I prefer homemade. I really like the citrus added and my version uses pears as well. I don’t mind the whole berries canned version too much. I actually eat a lot of turkey sandwiches year round and often add cranberry sauce to my mayo. Usually I’ll make my own with fresh or frozen cranberries but I will grab the can when I’m lazy.

  9. I’m actually surprised to hear this is such a contentious issue. It’s got to be homemade. I don’t really mind canned sauce so much as with all the food I cram in my belly on Thanksgiving, it isn’t worth fitting in cranberries unless they are special. I’d rather just have a extra slice of bird or scoop of stuffing.

  10. Homemade all the way! With added shallots and Port makes a humdinger to add to a savoury sandwich for the weekend!

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