How to make cranberry sauces, relishes & purees

Tart cranberries benefit from the addition of a sweetener — particularly sugar — to make tangy condiments like these different kinds of cranberry sauce and cranberry puree.

A representative for the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association says that in order for cranberries to form a gel, you can use pectin, sugar and acid — but the exact amounts may vary. “Because we’re talking about a natural commodity, we can’t always be sure how much pectin is in the cranberries, or how much water, which will dilute the pectin.”

Cranberry Sauce

The basics of making cranberry sauce

The pectin is in the skins, the cell walls, and between the cells, so they say, “you need to simmer the cranberries for quite some time in order to dissolve all of the pectin out of the cells and into the liquidy part. I’d say at least 20 to 25 minutes of a low simmer. Let the cranberries heat up and pop open first, then add the sugar and simmer. Gelatin will break down at boiling temps, so if [you’re] getting any gel at all after adding gelatin and boiling, it’s still likely due to the pectin that is in there.” If you quarter an orange and simmer the orange with the cranberries, the pectin in the orange skins will add to the total pectin amount. When you’re done, just scoop the oranges out and throw them away.

Orange-cranberry crunch muffins

How much sugar you use depends upon how strong you want the gel, the Association says. “Cranberries will gel at about 30% sugar. You see, they need to grab all of the water away from the pectin so that the pectin molecules can bond with each other, instead of the water.” Apparently the gel will become stronger with the more sugar added.

Recipes for cranberry sauces, relishes & purees

1. Whole cranberry sauce recipe

3 cups cranberries
1-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water


Simmer cranberries and water together. While simmering, mash with potato masher.

Add sugar; simmer for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Put into container and refrigerate.

Makes 2 cups

Recipe courtesy of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association

2. Five-minute cranberry sauce recipe

3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 cup water
2 cup sugar
fresh lemon juice (1/4 lemon)


Bubbling CranberriesGather all ingredients. Place cranberries in a saucepan with 1/4 cup of water and cook over low heat until cranberries are soft and begin to pop.

Add the sugar and mix well. Let simmer until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Place in serving dish, cover with plastic wrap and let cool. Serve cold.

Recipe courtesy of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association

3. Jellied cranberry sauce

2 quarts (2 lbs.) fresh cranberries
4 cups sugar
2-1/2 cups cold water

Caramel apple bread pudding

Cook cranberries in water until soft. Sieve into bowl containing the sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved and pour into molds. Let stand at room temperature until jelled.

Makes 1 to 1-1/2 quarts

Recipe courtesy of UMass Cranberry Station

4. 10-minute no-sugar-added cranberry sauce recipe

2 cups Splenda
2 cups water
1 pound (4 cups) cranberries
1 envelope unflavored gelatin

  1. Combine Splenda and water.
  2. Bring to a boil; cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add cranberries; cook until skins pop, about 5 more minutes.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. Add gelatin and cool in refrigerator.

Note: If you don’t like whole berries, they may be chopped or pureed in food processor before cooking.

Amount per 1/2 cup serving: Calories 52 Calories from Fat 0; Total Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 9 mg; Carbohydrate 13 g; Dietary Fiber 0 g; Protein 0 g; Exchange 1 fruit; Carbohydrate Units 1

Recipe courtesy of University of Illinois Extension

5. Sweetened cranberry puree recipe

Sweetened cranberry puree is delicious blended with whipped cream or Italian meringue for an elegant fruit mousse. Add a touch of whipped silken tofu for excellent flavor and texture. The great thing about making your own puree is that you can take advantage of the thickening power of the fruit’s own pectin.


3 cups frozen whole cranberries
1/4 cup water
2 cups sugar
fresh lemon juice (1/4 lemon)

  1. Measure cranberries and place in a saucepan with 1/4 cup water and cook over low heat until cranberries are soft. Simmer for approximately 5 minutes.
  2. Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree cranberries into a smooth liquid with a thick consistency.
  3. Transfer back into saucepan and simmer for about 1 minute stirring constantly.
  4. Add the sugar and cook on medium heat to dissolve. The mixture will turn completely liquid at this stage.
  5. Turn up heat and bring mixture to rolling boil. Stir constantly. Let boil for about 1 minute.
  6. Remove from heat. Squeeze juice of 1/4 lemon directly into puree. Mix completely.
  7. Let cool to room temperature.
Caramel tart with almonds and chocolate glaze

How to use sweetened cranberry puree: Serve as an ice cream topping, add it to the center of thumbprint cookies, or spread between two layers of cake for a surprisingly tart filling

Makes 2 cups

Recipe courtesy of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association

6. Cranberry orange relish

2 cups cranberries
1 whole orange
7/8 cup sugar


Pick over and wash cranberries. Cut orange, remove seeds. Put cranberries and orange through food chopper. Add sugar; mix thoroughly. Let stand several hours before using.

Recipe courtesy of UMass Cranberry Station

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