Homemade cranberry sauce is the perfect complement to holiday meals, and it’s easy to make and preserve at home. Canning cranberry sauce is easier than you think, and once you’ve made your own, you’ll never go back to storebought.
Jellied cranberry sauce was a staple of my childhood holiday memories, and I loved watching my mom carefully open the can and slide the whole thing out in a single piece. There was an even split across my family, half jellied cranberry sauce devotees and the other half would only eat whole berry cranberry sauce. While I loved jellied as a child, now that I’m an adult, I’ll admit that I’ve gone over to the dark side and now I prefer the chunky whole berry stuff.
Though I’ve been canning for years, it just never occurred to me that you could make your own cranberry sauce. A few years ago we were invited over to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving, and when we arrived the cranberry sauce was just finishing up on the stove.
We’ve butchered our own hogs, cured meats, and even grown our own chocolate, but somehow seeing someone make their own cranberry sauce surprised me. Old habits die hard I guess, and in my mind, cranberry sauce still came out of a tin can.
One bite of homemade cranberry sauce, and I’ll never go back to canned stuff. It had so much flavor! Nuanced layers of tart, sweet, orange and cinnamon danced across my tongue. The turkey that year was so juicy that it really didn’t need it, but I still slathered it on with abandon.
It seemed strange though, Thanksgiving day is such a busy time and the kitchen is jam-packed with activity. Wouldn’t it make sense to cook the cranberry sauce ahead of time? Surely it only improves with a few days in the jar with time for the flavors to marry.
Cranberry sauce is really no different than a jam or jelly when it comes to canning, and it can be made a week, a month or a year ahead of time if you choose. If you’re storing it in the refrigerator, it’s best to make it no more than a week before it’s needed. If you’re canning cranberry sauce, the sky’s the limit.
How to Make Cranberry Sauce for Canning
Whether you’re making whole berry sauce or a smooth jar of jellied cranberry sauce, it starts out the same. Bring equal parts sugar and water to a boil in a pan and allow it to simmer on medium high for about 5 minutes.
This creates a hot syrup that will help quickly pop the cranberries open. Once the syrup is good and hot, add in the cranberries.
The first time I did this it caught me off guard a bit. The skin on the cranberries pops open and it’s surprisingly loud. It’s like making popcorn, and I regretted making it when my infant son was sleeping.
Keep that in mind, and don’t let the loud cranberry pops scare you. It’s all part of the process!
Once the cranberries pop and begin to release their juices the cranberry sauce will begin to come together. At this point, if you’re making jellied cranberry sauce, the Ball Book of Home Canning suggests straining out the cranberries and putting them through a blender before returning them to the pan.
I think it’s easier to turn the heat off right after they all pop and allow the mixture to cool a bit before blending it up with an immersion blender right in the pan. Be careful of splattering!
If you’re making whole berry sauce, just skip that step, but either way keep on boiling the sugar, water and cranberries until it begins to thicken. Like any jam or jelly, watch the fire carefully and beware of boiling over. I had to stir down frothy bubbles every minute or so until the sauce was almost ready, and there’s really no walking out of the kitchen when cranberry sauce is cooking.
After about 15 minutes of simmering, the nature of the bubbles will change and you’ll see the syrup quickly begin to thicken. Once the mixture sheets off the back of a metal spoon it’s thickened and ready.
You can also test it for texture on a plate that’s been in the freezer. Simply spoon a bit onto the frozen plate and give it a moment to cool to make sure it’s thick enough.
At that point, pour the hot cranberry sauce into canning jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and center 2 part canning lids on top of the jars.
Either store in the refrigerator, or process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. Turn off the canner, and wait another 5 minutes before removing the jars.
Allow the cranberry sauce to cool for at least 12 hours before checking seals. Any unsealed jar should be stored in the refrigerator for immediate use.
The others can be stored in the pantry at room temperature. Ball canning lids are now guaranteed for at least 18 months, but in practice, they last much longer than that.
For whole berry cranberry sauce, just pop open the jar and give it a stir when you’re ready to serve a meal. Jellied cranberry sauce will slide right out of the jar, just like those old metal cans I remember from my youth.
Just be sure to use a smooth-sided canning jar, like wide mouth pints, and then run the sides of the sealed jar under hot water in the sink before opening it and gently sliding it out onto a plate.
This recipe is adapted from my go-to canning cookbook, The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
This simple cranberry sauce recipe will make either whole berry or jellied cranberry sauce. Canning cranberry sauce allows it to be stored at room temperature, but it can also be stored in the refrigerator for immediate use. Fresh cranberries yield the best cranberry sauce. Previously frozen cranberries also work, but they don't thicken as well for cranberry sauce. Jellied cranberry sauce especially, will have a much softer set if the cranberries were frozen.
This simple cranberry sauce recipe will make either whole berry or jellied cranberry sauce. Canning cranberry sauce allows it to be stored at room temperature, but it can also be stored in the refrigerator for immediate use.
Fresh cranberries yield the best cranberry sauce. Previously frozen cranberries also work, but they don't thicken as well for cranberry sauce. Jellied cranberry sauce especially, will have a much softer set if the cranberries were frozen.
Use your best judgment though. Here are a few more recipes to try:
- Apple Cider Cranberry Sauce
- Mulled Wine Cranberry Sauce
- Very Berry Cranberry Sauce
- Spicey Jalapeno Cranberry Sauce
- Bourbon Cranberry Sauce
- Roasted Cranberry Sauce
- Instant Pot Cranberry Orange Sauce
- Ginger Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Orange
I just recently came across your web site and Absolutely Love It!
I will be canning some cranberry sauce in the next day or two and was just wondering if the size of the jar matters?
My Ball canning book is MIA at the moment and it has been a long time since I have done any canning.
I will be using quart sized jars.
Thanks So Much,
Hi Lisa, This recipe is only tested by the national center for home food preservation in half-pint or pint jars. That said, it’s wicked acidic and full of sugar and I rationally see no reason why you couldn’t can it up in quarts. Just know it’s not a “tested” way to can it and that you should use your own best judgment.
I do plenty of thick, sugary preserves in quart jars (ie. apple pie filling) and just so long as you’re extra careful to get the air bubbles out it should be fine. The recommendation is 15 minutes process time for both half pint and pint jars, and personally, I’d add an extra 5 minutes (or 10 to be extra safe) for quart jars and process them for 20 to 25 minutes. The extra time in the boiling water won’t hurt this preserve.
The main thing I’d watch out for is siphoning, which can happen if you change the temperature too rapidly taking the jars out. Once canning time is over, turn off the heat and leave the jars in there for 5 more minutes before removing them to cool to room temperature. Siphoning can also be an issue with thick liquids if the headspace is wrong or if there are too many air bubbles. Watch the headspace, bubbles and let them sit before removing them.
This all is likely totally overkill, but better safe than sorry.
Thanks so much for getting back to me so soon! I did some research about canning jar sizes and decided the quart is probably too big. I did see Ball sells pint and a half (24 oz) jars that I think would be perfect but could not find them locally.
I have decided to use the wide mouth pint jars that I already have for now and just order the pint and a half size later.
I’ll be cooking and canning the cranberry sauce tomorrow while it rains away outside! It will be excellent therapy for a dreary day.
Enjoy your weekend,
I would like to make and give this for gifts. I wanted to know how many 8oz jar will this recipe yield? And can I add blueberries to this recipe?
If you’re making whole berry cranberry sauce this recipe will make about eight 8-ounce jars. For jellied cranberry sauce, most the bulk is filtered out and it makes quite a bit less. The jellied cranberry sauce variation should yield roughly four 8-ounce jars.
Yes, you can add blueberries to the whole berry cranberry sauce variation, and that’s totally safe for canning. Be aware that cranberries are a high pectin fruit, and blueberries are a low pectin fruit. That means if you add too many blueberries it’ll take much longer to set up into a jam, and it may be runnier as a result. The yield will also be lower.
With blueberries in it, the pectin concentration might not be high enough to make jellied cranberry sauce. That’ll depend on how many you put in, but I don’t believe it’ll set properly as a jellied sauce. That said, I’ve never personally tried it. Hope this helps and good luck!
I just finished making this and it turned out Awesome ,I was given 4 pounds of Dried Cranberries ,I soaked them for a half hour 8 cups for each recipe made , I finished with 23 Pints , Most of witch will go in Christmas Baskets for my Very Large Family along with other things I have Grown here in my Huge Garden ,Thanks so Much for sharing these Recipes for Canning with all of us. You are Greatly Appreciated around Here 🙂
Wow, it never occurred to me to try making this with dried cranberries. Lovely!
I’m so happy I read the comments, I also am going to use dried cranberries that I’ve soaked overnight. Just happy to see confirmation that they work!! ❤️
What do you do with the seeds in the cranberries? Like how do you get them out the most efficient way?
Cranberry seeds are so small that you’ll never notice them in the sauce. They’re literally the size of a pin, and they’re really soft after they cook. If you can see or taste them, I’d be impressed. They really disappear. If it really bothers you though, make jellied cranberry sauce instead of whole berry. With jellied sauce, all the solids are completely filtered out (skins, seeds, etc).
This recipe is very easy and good. However, we prefer our sauce a little more tart. Can I cut the sugar back to 3 cups? Would I use 3 or 4 cups of water?
Yes, you can definitely cut down the sugar as much as you’d like. When you lower the sugar, I agree lowering the water sounds like an excellent idea, otherwise, you’ll have a much longer cook time. I wouldn’t lower the water below 2 cups for this recipe, because you still need something in there to create the “sauce” part of the cranberry sauce, but changing it up to 3 cups sugar and 3 cups water should work well. (Keep in mind your yield will be lower) Enjoy!
Love the recipe! What really caught my eye was those jars! Would you mind sharing what brand they are? Thank-you!
Of course! They’re Anchor Hocking 8 oz canning jars.
I am about to use your cranberry recipe and was wondring if I can use 1/2 the aount of white and the other 1/2 brown sugar. I am so excitedto try so manyforyou recipes.
Yes you can, brown sugar (or honey, maple, etc) are all fine substitutions.
Would you still need as much honey as you do the sugar?
Generally, when you’re substituting honey you only use 3/4 a cup in place of each cup of sugar. Honey tastes sweeter than sugar. You can use the full amount though as well if you choose. You could also likely reduce it to 1/2 the sugar in this recipe and still get it to set beautifully, so really it’s up to you. Lower sugar or higher sugar is an option, or use 3/4 the amount for roughly the same effect of this recipe.
This may be a silly question but you talked about the berries “popping.” Does this mean you have to take out the skins before you continue cooking?
Nope, you leave the skins in there and they cook down for whole berry sauce. For jelly though, everything but the juice gets strained out.
I’ve never canned before, but I found a cranberry sauce recipe that my husband loves so I want to try it.
Can i use any pot that my jars will fit in, or do I need something specific? I’m not looking to purchase canning supplies other than the jars
Yup, that’s totally fine. You don’t need anything to can this other than a deep pot. The trick is, the water line needs to come up at least an inch above the top of the jar lids. I have a 6-quart pot that works just barely for canning half-pint jam jars and I use it frequently for canning small batches. No need to buy anything (other than canning jars and lids).
Oh!!! Something very important just occurred to me, and I can’t find an answer online. My recipe has orange liqueur in it….can you can foods that have alcohol in them?
Yes, that’s totally fine! (I even make a Whiskey Pear Butter myself)
Thank you sooooo very much for all of your tips!
I did it, and it all came out perfect!
It was a small batch, so I got  8 oz jars and a 16 out of the batch.
I’m making another batch this weekend!
You will need to fashion some sort of
jar rack in the bottom of the pot to ensure the canning jars are not sitting directly on the bottom of the pot, or they may break during processing.
Yes, you can easily use canning rings or even a towel on the bottom of the pot.
Thank you for the great post!!! It was a great guideline for me as I’ve never made my own cranberry sauce before!
Ashley. I jus found your recipe and wanted to say thank you. I have been looking for a fresh cranberry sauce recipe like the one I used for many years. I, however, added orange juice as part of the water and then finished it with chopped pecans.
I make mine with orange juice instead of water and add 1 tbsp grand marnier. I don’t can it. Would it work to do half orange juice and half water and then can it?
You can do all orange juice (and even keep the grand Marnier) and still can it. Orange juice is totally fine for canning, as is recipes containing some alcohol like yours with just a Tbsp.
can i use apple juice instead of water? would I need to reduce the sugar? Ive been canning for decades and yet have never canned cranberry sauce. I, too, love the whole berry. yum yum
Yes, you can use apple juice in place of water. It’ll be sweeter obviously, unless you reduce the sugar a bit, how much I’m not sure? Maybe cut the sugar to 3/4 the original and see how it goes? That’s a guess.
I just foraged wild cranberries and brought home a gallon. Time to get to making some cranberry sauce. We love the whole berry sauce as a topping on plain cheesecake!
That sounds wonderful. You can’t go wrong with cranberries or cheesecake in my book.
Hi Ashley, My husband and I love cranberry sauce, I make it without sugar , I was wondering can I can the cranberries with no sugar and how long should I boil in the water bath. We will be using pint ball jars. Thank You, Maureen
Yes, you can.
Hi, I have a homemade recipe for cranberry sauce that uses sugar,water, pineapple and raz jello. With the jello in it is it ok to can?
So I actually had to look this one up because I’ve never canned with gelatin. According to the national center for food preservation, jams with jello or gelatin cannot be canned (https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/usda/GUIDE07_HomeCan_rev0715.pdf).
“Gelatin may be used as a thickening agent, as indicated in two of the following recipes. Sweet fruits, apple juice, spices, and/or a liquid, low-calorie sweetener are used to provide the sweet flavor of the fruit spreads. When gelatin is used in the recipe, the jars of spread should not be processed. They should be refrigerated and used within 4 weeks.”
Was curious about the cinnamon stick. Do you take it out before putting the sauce in jars , just to add flavor while sauce is cooking? Or use a zester for the stick? Thanks!
Yes, it’s removed before the sauce goes into the jars, and it just adds flavor during cooking. I should clarify that in the recipe…
You mentioned that the sauce would be softer if using frozen berries, Is there something that could used to thicken the jelly?
You could add a small amount of pectin to get a nice firm set if using frozen berries. The amount depends on the pectin brand, so read the box on that one.
My homemade cranberry sauce includes apple chunks. Can I still add them when canning?
Yup, that’s perfectly fine. Make sure the apple chunks are cooked through when you’re making it, not just added at the very last minute when it goes into the jar. Provided they’re cooked with the jam, or at least heated through, then they can be canned in there. You can also take a look at my recipe for cranberry apple jam, which is a lot like a cranberry sauce with apple chunks: https://creativecanning.com/cranberry-apple-jam/
We have always made our own cranberry sauce, never thought to can it! We also have always put it thru a food mill to get out the skins. It still has a great texture with the pulp that goes thru the mill.
I would like to know if you can make sugar free whole berry cranberry sauce for canning. I have made it using unflavored gelatin for immediate use and know you should not can with gelatin so would love to get feedback on how to do it and products to use for hot water bath canning.
Yes, you could make it without sugar. I would suggest searching the internet for a tested recipe.
I just made this today. I used frozen berries, but had 9 cups to use so just did it all, and used 3 cups water and 1 cup orange juice since I didn’t have an orange to zest but wanted the flavor. I also did my sugar a little bit heaping to account for the extra berries. My berries weren’t the prettiest so I ended up blending with an immersion blender. But still came out with 8.5 jars (8oz). The flavor is amazing! Thanks so much!
You’re very welcome. So glad you enjoyed the recipe.
My recipe called for toasred pecans. Would you recommend adding the pecans if doing the water bath?
Thanks in Advence
I found this recipe on the National Center for Home Food Preservation which does include pecans. https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/cranberry_conserve.html
I was wondering if this recipe could be canned in 4 oz ball jars? I have not done any canning in many years and cooking for one, I don’t want a large amount sitting in the fridge tempting me. Thank you for any help you can give.
Yes you can use a smaller jar.
I tried this recipe and it came out bitter so I added more sugar and and now it doesn’t look like it is set up did I miss something? Or have you ever had this happen?
Did you continue to cook it after you added in the additional sugar?
The following is my cranberry sauce recipe, would it work for you canning?
1c pulp free OJ
1c brown sugar
1/2 c pineapple juice from canned slices
Heat OJ & sugar until boiling & sugar dissolved. Add berries, bring to boil on med/hi heat. Turn down to med/lo for 10-11 mins until thickened to desired consistency.
I used half powdered splenda and half sugar and followed directions otherwise. For some reason this did not set up. I made such a mess while canning this, I don’t want to open jars, add pectin, and re-process. Wonder if I could do something prior to serving that would thicken it?
Splenda can’t be used for no pectin recipes, it doesn’t activate the pectin like sugar does. If you want to can with splenda, you have to use a low or no sugar pectin (like pomonas pectin or sure jel low sugar). It may make the jam sweet, but it’s not structurally the same as sugar and won’t behave the same way during canning. If you want to save it by doing something at serving, the only thing I’d suggest is adding unflavored gelatin at serving and basically turning it into jello right before the meal. It’ll have a similar consistency to jellied cranberry.
Though splenda is the only change, that is why your jam/jelly didn’t set.
I used to be a whole berry fan but lately I am much more of a jellied cranberry fan. The method that the ball book uses, blending up the cranberries is truly nothing like cranberry jelly, it ends up being more like a thick jam that is smoother then whole berry, but not like a clear jelly. I now use my steam juice to make a nice clear juice, then make the jelly.
Hi. I was wondering if you could add crushed pineapple and/or bits of orange to this, and hoe that would affect the sauce setting up?
Yup, you could add either. Orange is also high pectin, so no problem there with setting. Cranberries have so much pectin that they’d accommodate for the low-pectin pineapple, but it might have a loose set if you add A LOT of pineapple.
I like to make my cranberry sauce using fresh cranberries but I like to add in sliced oranges, grated ginger, brown sugar and raspberries, Could this still be canned safely?
Yup, all those ingredients are perfectly fine for canning together in a sauce or jam.
Thank you!! So, I have another question. I made my cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving and it’s been a week now since it’s been in the fridge. Is it too late to jar it up and water bath can it?
I’m not sure that I would personally feel comfortable canning it after that period of time but I’m not exactly sure what the guidelines are on that.
I’m getting ready to make this recipe. I know when making jams, I don’t always completely blend the fruits completely leaving larger chunks. Is it okay to blend and also leave some cranberries while for canning?
Yup, this can be chunky or smooth. The main thing is to make sure all the parts are fully cooked before it goes into the canning jar.
I just made this, and it’s wonderful. The printed recipe needs looked at please, it says 2 cups water instead of 4 cups and it doesn’t explain when to add the spices. Otherwise Thank you so much for sharing your talent with all of us!
Thanks for pointing that out. It looks like it has been corrected now. So glad you enjoyed the recipe.
I made this recipe today without the cinnamon stick. Turned out perfect! Thank you for the great recipe
You’re very welcome. So glad you enjoyed the recipe.
I just made this today! Doubled the batch and added orange juice instead of orange zest. It took a bit longer to cook down with a double batch and frozen berries but thickened nicely! So delicious! Thank you for the amazing recipe! Oh, and I got exactly 16, half pints!
You’re very welcome. So glad you enjoyed the recipe and thanks for sharing.
You sent me a reply to this but it is not my comment
That’s odd. I’m not sure how that happened. So sorry.