For over thirty years my grandmother brought only one item to every holiday dinner that my mom
hosted. It was homemade cranberry sauce in
an antique metal mold in the shape of a star.
After my grandmother died I took
over this task and I still use the
same mold for all my family’s
holiday dinners. There is nothing
like making cranberry sauce from
fresh cranberries. What a
difference from canned cranberry
At first I had trouble getting
the correct ratio of water to sugar
to berries. The sauce would
either be runny or hard like a
brick. For me the right consistency is so that
the sauce is jellied so that it stands up after
coming out of the mold but it cuts like hard jelly and is a little harder to chew than jelly. My recipe is for
jellied cranberry sauce with the skins of the berries removed. If you like whole berry sauce you can
leave the skins in, and you will produce more than the three cups than this recipe produces.
This is a very simple recipe that depends on the availability of fresh cranberries, which generally
appear on store shelves in the fall.
fresh cranberries (I use two 12 ounce packages of
Ocean Spray brand – see photo)
2 cups water
3 cups sugar
Food mill or strainer – see instructions and photo
Mold for finished sauce – optional
It took me a while to get the amount of water and sugar just right.
Your sauce may be runny or too stiff like mine was. Your berries may be
fresher than mine and so cook times may vary (what is “simmer”,
anyway?) so try this proportion and see how you make out. Runny or
solid, this will taste great!
Rinse the berries in a strainer and pick out any big stems, stones or
other debris. This berries are a natural product and there will be some,
but very little, debris. Drain the berries well.
Bring all the above ingredients to a boil in a sturdy uncovered pot and simmer everything on medium
heat for about 15-20 minutes. Start your timer clock as soon as the mixture starts a
rolling boil. Again, your cooking time will vary so just give it a try. The berries will start
to pop and leak out their juices which is what you want. One of the signs of doneness
is that the berries all pop.
The mixture will foam and then reduce, since the pot is uncovered. It will also
thicken a bit, letting you know that it is nearly done.
Do not worry about the foam that appears in the pot. Just stir it in and it will
subside. You don’t have to add a pat of butter like you do with my cooked strawberry
I test for doneness by putting a spoonful of sauce in a cereal bowl and pop it in
the freezer for 5 minutes to see if the sauce will run. This is very unscientific, but this way I was able to
come up with the approximate 15 minutes cooking time.
When cooking is complete, it’s time to strain the sauce if you do not want the whole berries in the
sauce. You can pour all the sauce into a strainer and force the sauce through with the back of a spoon.
But the best way is to use a food mill. I got mine from my grandmother along with the star mold. You
can get one for $20-$30 online and it is well worth it (see photo). Turn the crank on the food mill to
quickly force the sauce through the food mill’s strainer.
Pour the finished sauce into a mold, or just a bowl, that will take the three cups of sauce you will
have. If you are keeping the whole berries you will have much more than three cups.
Chill the mold for several hours – I make mine the night before to be sure the mold is well chilled and
also because preparing holiday dinners can make for pandemonium and it’s nice to have this delicious
side dish made ahead of time.
At serving time, to release the mold just dip the outside of the mold in really hot water for about 10
seconds and then flip the mold onto the serving plate and tap! The hot water will liquefy a fraction of an
inch of the sauce adhering to the mold and make release easy.