Homemade Cranberry Sauce

I’m fighting a case of bronchitis, as it turns out, so for the last few days I’ve had to skip running. I tried to do a long run on Friday, but had to cut it short – that’s when I knew I was actually sick. Had to stop at 5 miles and all of them sssllloooowwww.

But that’s okay, there haven’t been any food posts around here in a while so maybe we can do that while I wait to get back on the road. I have a race in 6 weeks but it is just a 12k, so as long as I get well in the next couple of days I won’t lose much fitness. Trying to not worry about it.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner now, and the new cranberry crop (grown right here in Washington state!) is in. When our family visited the Long Beach peninsula last fall (where cranberries are grown) I bought 5 pounds of cranberries. I froze them, and am finally down to my last pound or so.

I decided to put my remaining berries to good use by making and canning some cranberry sauce for thanksgiving and Christmas. Cranberry sauce is so easy to make and so much tastier and healthier when you make it yourself, I don’t know why anyone buys the canned stuff. Here’s how to do it:

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

4 – 5 cups whole cranberries (1 bag as sold in supermarkets)
1 cinnamon stick
1 satsuma or small orange, zested and juiced
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

If you want to preserve the sauce, you will also need some canning jars, or freezer containers.

The recipe makes about 4 cups, so 4 half pint jars or 2 pint jars. You can use fresh or frozen cranberries.

To Prepare

Put cranberries in a pot, and put the pot on the stove.

Add the cinnamon stick and zest plus juice of the orange.

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Add sugar and water, turn stove to medium high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

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Cranberries will begin to make squeaky noises and burst open as they cook. Continue to boil and stir occasionally until the mixture thickens – about 30 minutes.

If you plan to can your berries, put on a pot of water to boil while the cranberries are cooking, with enough water to cover your canning jars. Use this water to disinfect your jars and lids, and to can. More instructions on the canning after the next step.

Remove cranberries from heat after 30 minutes and pour into food mill, placed over a large bowl. You can skip this step if you like your cranberry sauce with whole berries. People at my house like it a little smoother, so I mill it before canning.

Cranberries before milling:

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Cranberries after milling. Love the color!

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To Preserve

While cranberries are cooking, put on a large pot of water to boil, with enough water to cover your canning jars when they are standing upright. Disinfect your empty jars and canning lids before use by placing them in the boiling water for a minute or two, laying on their sides. Remove from the water using canning tongs and place upright to dry with open end up while you finish milling the fruit. Don’t touch the insides of the jars or the underside of the lids to prevent introduction of bacteria.

After milling is complete and while sauce is still hot, pour the cranberry sauce into freezer containers, or your prepared canning jars.

If freezing, allow the sauce to cool before placing lids and putting containers in the freezer.

If canning, leave about 1/2 inch of headspace between top of sauce and the top of the jar to allow for steam expansion while canning in the water bath. This is what forces the air out of the jar and creates a good seal. Carefully place the canning lids and rings so that there is a seal that will still allow air to escape.

Place the covered jars into the boiling water. Water should cover the jars up to their “necks” but should not completely cover the jars – air has to escape and you don’t want water to get in.

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Keep the jars in the boiling water to process for 15 minutes. Listen for the Ping sound that indicates the jars have sealed. The number of pings should be equal to the number of jars. If you don’t hear the ping, pull the jars out of the water at 15 minutes anyway and set aside to cool. Listen to any unsealed jars as they cool – they may yet ping to indicate a seal. When jars are cool, test for a seal by poking the top of the jar – if there is no bubble, then you probably have a good seal.

If the jars don’t seal, you can refrigerate or freeze the sauce. They will still keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks but won’t be shelf stable.

If properly canned and sealed, the sauce should keep for up to a year unopened. After opening, the sauce will have a shelf life similar to any opened, canned jam if kept refrigerated.

Caveat – this recipe gives canning times for canning at sea level (which it is, where I live). If you live at altitude, or if you have never canned before, I highly recommend reading up here before you start. I have done my best to ensure this recipe is safe, but with any type of canning it is best to ensure you thoroughly understand what you are doing before you get started, to ensure food safety.

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