Cranberries, two ways


As I’ve gotten older, I’ve spent many holiday celebrations away from my family. While I might miss getting to spend time with my family, I always love seeing what other people’s food traditions are; and I love the opportunity to share dishes from my family traditions in return.

I usually bring one of my family’s cranberry dishes because quite frequently the cranberries are a throw away dish, but if done right, it can be a beautiful and tasty addition to any holiday table. It’s also a great dish to bring because for many people growing up the cranberries were out of a can and they have no idea how fabulous cranberries can be.

In my family, we have two cranberry traditions, one that is generations old and another one that is more recent: my great-grandmother’s traditional Cranberry Sauce and my aunt’s Cranberry Chutney. Some years we’ll have just one, but often we have both.  

The great thing about both of these dishes is that they are really easy and always impressive when you tell people that you made them from scratch. Since so many think of cranberries as something that comes from a can, people don’t often realize that they can easily make a cranberry dish themselves.

Personally, I always think it’s a shame that more people don’t make their own cranberry dishes; the color, tarter flavor, and texture of real, homemade cranberry sauce or chutney are a wonderful balance to the heaver flavors that they typically accompany. Plus, they both look really pretty!

Truthfully, it is extremely easy to make either dish, all you really need to have is some time and, for the sauce, a couple of strong stirring arms! Both dishes can also be as sweet as you’d like because you get to control how much sugar you add; most of the time I don’t add any sugar at all but you can adjust it if it’s too tart.

Finally, both of these dishes can be made in advance (and really they should be made a couple of days early to allow the flavors to come together) which frees up more time the day of to do other things.


Cranberry Sauce


  • Cranberries, 1 package

  • Apples, 4 (my Grandmother prefers Roma Beauty, but any good cooking apple will do)

  • Sugar, to taste (optional)


 Sort the cranberries – toss the soft berries and keep the firm ones. Rinse the sorted berries.

Peel and core the apples. Chop them into small, bite size pieces.


Put the apples in a 3 quart sauce pan and add the rinsed cranberries on top. Add ½ cup water and bring to a simmer over low-medium heat. Cook until the apples are soft. Add a little water if needed but the apples will make their own juice.

When the apples are soft, put them in a large strainer placed over a large bowl and use a wooden or plastic spoon to stir (a word of warning, if you use a wooden spoon it will probably be stained red – a very pretty red, but red nonetheless.) Press the mixture against the wire mesh to pop the berries. Stir until all you have left in the strainer is the cranberry skins. Toss the skins (preferably onto a compost heap!)

Optional: add sugar to taste. Just be careful not to over sweeten it, you don’t want to overpower the flavor of the sauce. If I do this step I add ¼ cup at a time, tasting as I go.

Place it in a closed container and refrigerate until needed. It keeps very well and is always impressive! 


Cranberry Chutney


  • Cranberries, 1 package

  • Oranges, 2 navel (thin skinned)

  • Pecans, to taste

  • Sugar, to taste (optional)


Sort the cranberries – toss the soft berries and keep the firm ones. Rinse the sorted berries.


Place the cranberries in a food processor and chop. Don’t chop them all the way, as you will continue chopping as you add more ingredients.

Peel the oranges and remove the pith. Place the orange slices in the food processor and pulse until the oranges are somewhat mixed in.

Add as much or as little pecans as you’d like (my family always likes lots) to the food process and chop to your liking.

Taste and add sugar if needed (optional.) Start with a 1/3 cup of sugar and adjust from there.

Place it in a closed container and refrigerate until needed. Just like the sauce, it keeps very well and is always impressive! 


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