Cranberry Options for Thanksgiving and Beyond

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Cranberries reach their peak in late autumn; their brief season is something to be cherished. I take the opportunity to put up whatever I can, for as long as I can – not just in November.

Be it a classic cranberry jelly or whole berries baked into cakes, cranberries are ideal to add some color and contrast throughout the winter months. Their notoriously tart flavor can be tamed with a sweeter fruit coupling, brightened by citrus, jazzed up by spices, or warmly contrasted with earthy combinations like lentils and mushrooms.

Moreover, the cranberry preserve can always be trusted to set up, as it is packed with naturally occurring pectin and acid, and thus is a great base with which to get creative.

This isn’t the first cranberry round-up I’ve posted, but I hope the more I share, the more they will be enjoyed beyond the Thanksgiving table. Explore the cranberry preserves I’ve posted in the past, and experiment with your own in the present!

Jams and Jellies

pears and cranberries

For a recipe to liven up any meal, try this Spiced Cranberry Jam. It uses orange, lemon, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves, but could handle a number of other additives. Use vanilla beans or nutmeg to work with sweeter meals, or pack some heat with cayenne pepper for a warm and tangy condiment. Play around to find the combo that works for you.  

While I encourage you to experiment with the Spiced Cranberry Jam, I humbly recommend this Pear Cranberry Jam be left as is—the marriage between tart cranberries, sweet pear, and zesty lemon makes for a harmonious jam to star on any holiday cheeseboard. I’ve also got a low-sugar version if you’re looking for something a little tarter. 

For another fall favorite combination, try this Apple Cranberry Jam. It’s a sweet but simple spread (look further below for these flavors coming together in a compote).

If your freezer is laden with frozen fruit that needs to be used, have a go at a Cranberry Raspberry Jam, Cranberry Blueberry Jam, or this mixed fruit Holiday Berry Jam; all three allow the cranberry to rise to the occasion, perking up frozen fruit that has seen stronger flavors and better days, without compromising on texture. Stir these into rice pudding or oatmeal to add a splash of flavor and color.

"canned" homemade cranberry sauce

Still, if nostalgia is your driving force for canning (and you plan to eat this next-day), instead of processing this classic Cranberry Jelly, check out my method of using a cleaned can to mold a batch of freshly made jelly into its iconic canned shape.

Compotes and Marmalade

cooking the chutney

I’m particularly smitten with this recipe, originally destined to be chutney. This Cranberry Marmalade combines whole pieces of orange, minced apple, dried apricots, and of course, cranberries. Flavored with honey and cardamom, the result is a warm treat ideal for topping off brie, yogurt, or French toast! 

Take another route with adventurer, blogger, and home canner, Heather Francis, who shared her Cranberry Blueberry Compote with me (and the rest of the Food in Jars community!) With hints of almond and rum, this compote is certain to be a crowd pleaser.

For something slightly less textured, my Small Batch Apple Cranberry Compote, cooked until the cranberries pop and the apple chunks have softened, has a wonderful mouth-feel and taste. 

Likewise, this Cranberry Orange Compote is deeply fragrant orange zest and pieces. It lays more on the bright than the sweet, but is naturally sweetened with honey to round out the flavor.

Sauces and Butters

4 cups cranberries

Cranberry sauces and butters are smoother than their jam, compote, and marmalade kin. While I’ve sworn off commercial cranberry products years ago, sometimes I still favor a more even texture. If, like me, you think cranberry skins can be unnecessarily tough, be sure to run your cranberry sauces through a food mill when they’re finished cooking for to achieve uniformity.

For the smoothest of smooth, attempt a Cranberry Apple Butter it requires extended time and dedication, but results in a smooth and versatile butter that is tangy and sweet. Use it at thanksgiving or to dress up latkes during the holidays.

Find sweet-tart harmony in this fall inspired Honey Maple Cranberry Sauce, flavored with lemon zest, cinnamon sticks, apple cider or juice, honey, and maple syrup. For a recipe that favors tartness over sweetness, try this Cranberry Quince Sauce instead of your usual thanksgiving go-to.

Think beyond the table and try this Cranberry Caramel Sauce; it highlights the tang of the cranberry against a sweet, buttery base; this caramel would be a welcomed surprise guest on ice cream, goat cheese, or anything cold, creamy, and in need of a bit of acid and sweetness. 

In The Kitchen

pickled cranberries

Cranberries are delightful in fizzy water or a boozy infusion. My Spiced Cranberry Shrub is a combo of cranberries, apple cider vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, and star anise. Pair this with your favorite carbonated water and whiskey and indulge.

If you want a more visibly festive cocktail, these whole Pickled Cranberries can be used in place of a shrub. Pickled cranberries may seem outside the box, but I found them to be sharp and versatile—the many ways I used them are detailed in the corresponding post.

If you’d rather bake with cranberries than drink them, this Cranberry Banana Snack Cake is homey, not too sweet, and a great way to use up that half a bag of cranberries that you didn’t get around to.

For a subtly spicy, sweet baked good, bring this Cranberry Bread to brunch; relying on orange juice for moisture and to provide contrast to the cranberries and pecans, it pairs perfectly with a round of mimosas.

Any of the jams and sauces above would pop in these Jammy Oatmeal Pecan Bar Cookies or in thumbprint cookies. However, if you have dried cranberries on hand, try these Granola Cookies to shake up your mid-morning snack. Likewise, my Cranberry Orange Scone Mix in a Jar makes a great gift, or use it yourself to brighten up a stodgy winter.

granola cookies

How are you using cranberries this season?

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2 responses to “Cranberry Options for Thanksgiving and Beyond”

  1. I pretty well just make a cranberry nut bread from my mom’s recipe. It uses orange juice, like yours, but has walnuts instead of pecans and no spices. It’s quite scrummy, though (especially toasted with butter, ha!)
    Thanks to Corrinne’s post, though, I’m now curious to try pickled cranberries.

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