Chatelaine Kitchen

Pantry 101: Canned cranberry sauce vs. homemade

For Thanksgiving, do you buy it canned—or make it at home? And what's the difference, anyway?

cranberry sauce

Illustration, Erica Rodrigues.

Thanksgiving isn’t complete without cranberry sauce.This sweet-tart sauce is made of fresh cranberries that are boiled in sugar and water and can be changed up with the addition of flavour-enhancing ingredients, like orange juice or cinnamon. But do you buy it canned—or make it at home?  And what’s the difference, anyway? Here’s a breakdown:

Canned cranberry sauce
Canned cranberry sauce actually comes in two variations, the jellied version, and a whole berry version. The difference is all in the texture; for jellied cranberry sauce, the berries are cooked so that they break down completely, whereas you will still find chunks of berries in whole berry sauce. (Keep in mind: While convenient, both sauces are typically made with the addition of high-fructose corn syrup and glucose.)

Why we love it:
It’s the convenience and nostalgia. With so many other dishes to prepare for Thanksgiving, it doesn’t get much easier than opening a can of cranberry sauce. We may typically make it from scratch—but it’s hard to deny the allure of this jiggly jelly that—in a strangely satisfying way—comes out of the can whole and ready to use.

Try something different:
Cranberry-glazed meatballs


Homemade cranberry sauce
It may not be as fast as opening as can, but making cranberry sauce is the simplest task when preparing Thanksgiving dinner. It requires just one pot, three ingredients (fresh cranberries, water and sugar) and about 20 minutes to cook it down to create a perfectly tart and slightly sweet sauce. (Most packages of fresh cranberries include a basic recipe on the back.) Making homemade cranberry sauce is an easy way to up the gourmet factor and impress family and friends at Thanksgiving dinner.

Why we love it:
By making your own cranberry sauce you have complete control over the flavour and ingredients involved. Try adding more or less sugar depending on how sweet you like your sauce. You can also experiment by adding orange, cinnamon or ginger for a more modern take on this classic dish.

Try something different:
Cranberry-bacon chutney


Did you know?
Cranberries are one of the few commercially produced fruits that are native to North America. In Canada, cranberries were first commercially produced in Nova Scotia in 1872. Since then, the cranberry industry has expanded into New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.

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