Got a can of cranberry sauce lurking at the back of the pantry that you’ve been avoiding for months? Some people think that the store-bought sauce is just not the same as your homemade version, and leave it as a last resort.
However, it is incredibly easy to turn a store-bought cranberry sauce into a delicious dinner accompaniment!
So, what is the best way to improve canned cranberry sauce? You can add ingredients to improve the flavor and texture of the sauce, such as citrus zest or chopped nuts. Another way to improve canned cranberry sauce is to add garnishes and decorations to the serving platter.
If you’re looking for a quicker way to make cranberry sauce, then a can of store-bought sauce is a great place to start. Keep reading to find out how to make the most of this handy store cupboard staple!
What Is Canned Cranberry Sauce?
Canned cranberry sauce is a family favorite at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners around the world, and for good reason!
This jellified fruity condiment is the perfect partner for juicy and succulent turkey, bringing out the best in your festive dinner.
Best described as a jelly rather than a sauce, canned cranberry sauce is made by first cooking fresh cranberries in water.
This mixture is sweetened and cooked again until the berries break down completely. The rich, red sauce is strained to remove any lumps and poured into cans.
Cranberries have a very high level of pectin, meaning that the sauce will set into a thick jelly. This jelly takes the shape of the can, so will often appear ridged on the outside.
The reason that some people prefer jellied cranberry sauce is that, unlike the homemade version, the jelly remains solid on the plate. This means it does not run all over your dinner, covering every part in cranberry flavor!
With the jellied version, you can just cut off the perfect amount to eat with every bite of delicious turkey.
What Do You Do With Canned Cranberry Sauce?
Have you ever wondered why your cans of cranberry sauce appear upside down? Yes, that’s right—the edge you would normally open is at the bottom and not the top of the can!
This is to show you that you should open your can of cranberry sauce at the bottom. When the can is filled and stored, an air bubble forms at the top of the can.
When you open the bottom, this air bubble helps your jellied cranberry sauce to slide out in one piece. Clever stuff!
Here’s a little tip: if you’ve ever struggled to get the sauce from the can in one piece, run a knife around the top edge of the jelly first.
Put the open end of the can onto a plate, hold the two tightly together, and give it a vigorous shake. The jelly should just slide out when you lift the can away!
Canned cranberry sauce is ready to eat straight from the tin, and that is how many people serve it. But what if you want to make your canned cranberry sauce that bit better? Here are our top tips for making canned cranberry sauce fancier!
How To Serve Canned Cranberry Sauce
Most people serve canned cranberry sauce by slicing the jelly into rounds about a quarter of an inch thick. These are laid on a plate, ready for the dinner guests to each take a slice or two.
However, there are some great ways to make canned cranberry sauce look much fancier!
Firstly, think about your serving platter. Do you have to use a plate, or could you find something a bit more imaginative? Not that there is anything wrong with plates, but make sure you use one that looks the part!
As an alternative, you could use a mini-tiered cake stand, with slices of cranberry sauce decorating the top tier.
The other tiers could be used for other Thanksgiving or Christmas trimmings, such as balls of stuffing and chunks of cornbread.
Alternatively, you could use an ornate platter or board for your cranberry sauce.
If you’re feeling creative, then get out your stash of cookie cutters! Slice the cranberry jelly into rounds, then use the cutters to make cute shapes.
You could go with a theme, such as leaves for a fall Thanksgiving celebration, or stars for a Christmas feast.
You can also decorate your cranberry sauce platter to make it more appealing. Green herbs such as rosemary and thyme will add color and scent to your dinner table.
If you want a more wintery effect, a simple sprig of holly and some red berries is a lovely seasonal addition. Dried slices of citrus fruits are colorful and pretty and can be topped with glistening red pomegranate seeds.
Tips To Make Canned Cranberry Sauce Fancier
Whilst most people serve jellied cranberry sauce in slices, it is also very easy to pop it into a bowl and stir it into a softer sauce.
This means you can add in extra ingredients, turning a store-bought sauce into something much more like the homemade version.
To do this, tip the whole jar of jellied sauce into a large mixing bowl and use a spoon to break it down. It should be possible to do this whilst the sauce is cold, but you can do this in a pan over very low heat if you prefer.
Once the jellied cranberry mixture resembles a thick sauce, you can start to add new ingredients. And this is where the fun really comes in!
Whilst you could add some cranberries to the sauce to make it fancier, we think there are far bigger and better things you could do here. To completely transform your cranberry sauce, add any combination of the following:
- Orange (either fresh juice or finely grated peel)
- Fresh pineapple juice, or chopped pineapple chunks
- Spices, such as cinnamon or ginger
- Finely chopped dried fruits, such as apricots or blueberries (or even cranberries!)
- Toasted pecan nuts are great to add both flavor and texture.
- And if you are feeling really brave, try adding a little splash of wine!
Add a little of whatever your chosen ingredients are at a time, and keep tasting your sauce at regular intervals. You’ll be amazed a how quickly the flavor and texture of this jelly are transformed with just a few simple additions!
When you’ve finished making your cranberry sauce really special, don’t forget to decant it into a beautiful serving bowl!
Sprinkle the finished sauce with the garnish of your choice, and your guests will hardly believe that it came from a can.
Some of the flavor suggestions above also work well for sliced cranberry jelly. For example, you could garnish your jelly slices with finely grated citrus peel or slivers of candied ginger.
A handful of chopped nuts sprinkled over your cranberry slices can also be very effective.
Should Canned Cranberry Sauce Be Served Hot Or Cold?
Now, we briefly mentioned earlier that canned cranberry jelly can be gently heated if you want to break it down into a sauce. But should you serve it hot or cold?
This comes down entirely to personal preference. Most people serve both homemade and canned cranberry sauce cold, either refrigerated or at room temperature.
This is perfectly acceptable and how many families have done it for years.
However, a cold sauce is not always very palatable as part of a hot dinner! So, if you prefer, you can gently warm your sauce before serving. This can be done in a pan on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Remember that the high sugar content will cause it to heat quickly, so take care!
The only thing to bear in mind is that, as the sauce warms, it will become more liquid. So, if you don’t want a runny sauce that leaks all over your plate, stick to cold cranberry sauce!
Now that we’ve gone over some great ways to spruce up your canned cranberry sauce, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
Can canned cranberry sauce be used in desserts?
Do you ever get annoyed at the waste involved in a can of cranberry sauce? Let’s face it, each dinner guest is probably only going to eat one slice! So, what can you do with the leftovers?
Luckily, canned cranberry sauce makes a great base for many different desserts. This sweet and intensely fruity jelly is perfect for many different dishes, including:
- Cranberry oatmeal bars
- Cranberry muffins
- Cranberry shortbread
- Cranberry and apple crisp
- Cranberry coffee cake
We don’t know about you, but we’re really hoping there will be plenty of leftover cranberry jelly at our next family feast now!
How do you store an open can of cranberry sauce?
Speaking of leftovers, how long can jellied cranberry sauce be stored? Once you’ve opened the can, the jelly should be removed and put into an airtight container. This can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Plenty of time to make all those desserts we talked about!
However, don’t make the mistake of putting your leftover canned cranberry sauce in the freezer. This sauce does not freeze well and will be watery and unappetizing once defrosted.