Homemade Cranberry Sauce in a Tin Can Mold

November 21, 2011(updated on November 16, 2022)

Prefer a homemade cranberry sauce, but have family who like to see it in the traditional can shape? Use an empty tin can to mold your homemade sauce!

This little fish-shaped dish is my family’s cranberry sauce server. It is simply the perfect size for a can of cranberry jelly. I grew up with a clear glass one that my mom still has and a few years ago, when I found this milk glass version at a thrift store for $1.50, I snatched like it was the most valuable thing in the store. To me, it was.

"canned" homemade cranberry sauce

The only wrinkle in this tradition is the fact that I gave up commercially made cranberry sauce a few years ago. I make so many preserves that it seemed silly to continue to buy this particular one. What’s more, most of the store bought stuff is made with high fructose corn syrup, a substance I try to avoid when possible.

"canned" homemade cranberry sauce

So this year, I decided to do something a little silly in order to satisfy my desire to slide a can-shaped tube of cranberry sauce into my little fish dish. I cooked up a batch of homemade cranberry sauce and molded it into the can shape using BPA-free cans.

I searched out a neutral-tasting food so that the cans wouldn’t impart any additional flavor to the jelly (these cannellini beans were perfect and were perfect in a batch of sausage and kale soup). I also made sure to find a can that had a flat bottom, so that I could use a can opener on it in the event that the jelly was hesitant to exit the can.

4 cups cranberries

Here’s how to make homemade cranberry sauce

I made a very basic cranberry jelly. Combine 5 cups whole cranberries with 3 cups granulated white sugar, 1 cup apple cider and the juice of 1 lemon in a medium saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and cook until the cranberries burst, stirring regularly. If it begins to look too thick, add a splash more water.

"canned" homemade cranberry sauce

Fit a food mill with its finest screen. When cranberries are finished cooking, pour them into the bowl of the food mill and work them through. You could also use a fine mesh sieve and a rubber scraper if you don’t have a food mill. Continue to mill the cranberries until all that remains in the bowl of the food mill is seeds and skins.

"canned" homemade cranberry sauce

Set a wide mouth funnel into your well-cleaned cans and scrape the warm cranberry sauce into the can, leaving a bit of space at the top.

"canned" homemade cranberry sauce

Cover the filled cans with foil or plastic wrap and place them the fridge to set. If you can, give them at least 12 hours of chilling for optimum molding.

"canned" homemade cranberry sauce

Just before you’re ready to serve, gather your equipment. Can of molded cranberry sauce. Butter knife. Can opener. And the all-important fish dish.

"canned" homemade cranberry sauce

Carefully slide the butter knife down along the side of the cranberry jelly and run it in a complete circle to loosen. Take care when you to this so you don’t end up slicing all the can ridges off the jelly. They are part of the joy. Once the sauce has been loosened, invert the can into your dish and give it a little wiggle.

"canned" homemade cranberry sauce

Sometimes the jelly begins to slide out immediately. If it remains stuck, use the can opener to crack the vacuum by beginning to take the bottom off the can. I’ve found that you don’t have to remove it all the way, even just a little bit of air in there helps move things along. Gently slide the cranberry sauce out onto your plate.

"canned" homemade cranberry sauce

Serve with pride, knowing that you’ve managed to maintain a family tradition while sticking to your culinary guns. And, should you be curious, this cranberry jelly recipe is also appropriate for funneling into glass jars and processing in a boiling water bath canning. Ten minutes for pints and half pints will more than do.

If this recipe for homemade cranberry sauce doesn’t float your boat, here are even more cranberry sauces, jams, and preserves!

5 from 7 votes

Home “Canned” Cranberry Sauce Made in a Tin Can Mold

Servings: 3 pints


  • 5 cups whole cranberries
  • 3 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup apple juice or cider
  • 1 lemon juiced


  • Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Place the pot over high heat and bring the contents of the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries burst, stirring regularly. If it begins to look too thick or stick to the bottom of the pot, add a splash of water.
  • Fit a food mill with its finest screen and set it over a bowl. When cranberries are finished cooking, pour them into the bowl of the food mill and work them through. You could also use a fine mesh sieve and a rubber scraper if you don’t have a food mill. Mill the cranberries until all that remains in the bowl of the food mill is seeds and skins.
  • Set a wide mouth funnel into your well-washed can molds and pour in the warm cranberry sauce, leaving a bit of space at the top.
  • Cover the filled cans with plastic wrap and place them the fridge to set. If you can, give them at least 12 hours of chilling for optimum molding.
  • When you’re ready to serve, carefully slide the butter knife down along the side of the cranberry jelly and run it in a complete circle to loosen. Take care when you to this so you don’t end up slicing all the can ridges off the jelly. Once the sauce has been loosened, invert the can into your dish and give it a little wiggle.
  • Serve immediately.

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5 from 7 votes (1 rating without comment)

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126 thoughts on "Homemade Cranberry Sauce in a Tin Can Mold"

  • This is fantastic! I may just do this to fool some members of my family who ardently reject my home made cranberry sauce because it “doesn’t taste as good as canned”.

  • Very cool! I am going to make this. I will try using pectin instead of lemon juice (son is allergic). Thanks for sharing this recipe. Great pics!

    1. Nanci, no need to add pectin. Cranberries are very high in it naturally. The lemon juice is just there for the flavor, not to aid in set.

  • Absolutely brilliant. Pulling the wool over at Thanksgiving… do you plan to tell guests before or after taking part? You have my thumbs (way) up as an RD!



    1. Heather, because I’m not hosting this year, I think I’ll have to share the news that my cranberry sauce isn’t actually the canned kind. But I’m hoping that the “traditional” shape will encourage people who might not otherwise try a homemade sauce to take a nibble.

  • So awesome! I, too, grew up with the stuff from a can, and miss the shape sometimes, because I avoid the canned stuff for the same reasons as you. Nice work!

  • This is great! While I didn’t grow up with the can shaped cranberry tradition, my husband did and he maintains it as something we need at Thanksgiving dinner. Now we can have the best of both worlds. Love it!

  • Love the milk glass fish! I have a large version and use it to hold fresh fruit on the kitchen table. Now I need a small one for cranberry sauce which, strangely enough, we eat all year with chicken, turkey, pork, and even beef. Homemade cranberry sauce, of course. 🙂

  • Okay, is it pathetic that the first thing I did after reading this post was google “Milk glass fish dish”? Seriously…love it!

    Also, you are brilliant. My mom makes a chunky cranberry relish for Thanksgiving, but I’ve never liked it…always preferred the taste and texture of the stuff from the can. But this looks like it has just the right texture. And I love the can idea.

    1. This is a strained version. That’s what the food mill is for, it removes the skins and seeds and leaves you with a smooth product.

  • I love it! I tried my hand at cranberry sauce last year and canned it in wide mouth pints so that it would still slide out in one piece, but it was definitely missing the can ridges. To me and my siblings, cranberry sauce simply must have the can ridges to be “real” cranberry sauce.

  • So glad you posted this today! I always make the whole cranberry sauce but still buy a can of jellied for the “kids”(coming home from college). My store was out of organic jellied cranberry sauce so this recipe is a lifesaver. I have a traditional serving dish too – a fancy glass dish shaped like a pear that I bought for my mom when I was a little girl. It cost me 25 cents at the “little farm store” that a neighbor had down the road. Traditions mean a lot. Enjoy yours!

  • Funny that you did this because my father-in-law tells a story every Thanksgiving of his Mennonite mother would make her cranberry sauce the same way! LoL

  • OMG you just made my day. My family has this running joke about the cranberry sauce and how it’s the most amazing thing on the table because the chef spent all that time carving the ridges. And for the past few years we’ve just had two cranberry sauces – a good one and one out of the can, just so we don’t ruin the joke. I HAVE to do this now.

  • Thanks for posting this, I will be trying it.
    Just curious, is there any use for the leftover skins/seeds or do you toss them?

    1. I just tossed them. There’s not much leftover and texturally, they’re sort of challenging. However, you could always bake the into a quick bread if you can’t bear any waste.

  • I am definitely going to try this…..my hubby only likes the stuff in a can………YUCK……..BUT even this can fool him!

  • Searching for food mills – what brand is yours? Couldn’t tell from the handle who’s the manufacturer…. would you recommend? TIA.

    1. I don’t actually recommend my food mill. The first time I used it, all the little legs designed to prop it up on the bowl broke off. I’ve used the OXO food mill in the past and found it to be excellent.

  • I never thought to do this, brilliant! Love that you also found cans without BPA lining. I am also making my own sauce at my in-laws tomorrow, I think most of the family would be more comfortable with it “looking” like it came from a can!

  • Marisa — I thought about this the other day to fool everyone who turns their nose up at homemade cranberry sauce. I haven’t eaten canned since I’ve made my own. Now I am DEFINITELY doing it — gotta go fish some cans out of the recycle! Love your dish also. Have a nice Thanksgiving.

  • Is this the same recipe (just larger) as your November ’09 post which you said wouldn’t set up firmly enough to unmold? Maybe the proportions are different? I hope so, because I want to serve this to my “healthy food” averse family. If it has ridges and can be sliced into rounds, my family will love it!

    1. You know what, I was totally wrong about that ’09 jelly not setting up. I’ve since learned that cranberries have tons of pectin and almost always set up.

  • You are a genius 🙂 I don’t have my act together enough to do this this year, but I’m adding it to my list for next year! We never have canned sauce (my mom makes the greatest relish, my grandmother’s recipe) but my dad adores it. Next year, we’ll have both 🙂

  • So you know —

    My family has a small farm and is one of Ocean Spray’s suppliers. I am showing them this post, as they will be HUGELY amused.

    (We actually made our own relish from scratch, because if you can get the berries direct from your own bog, then…bonus.)

  • This makes me so happy. Holidays are all about traditions — from specific dishes to meal presentations (can ridges on cranberry sauce included) — and finding a way to respect your own traditions within a modern lifestyle is so very, very excellent.

  • Ha! This is awesome. Very funny and also very cool at the same time. I never thought about re-canning it. 🙂 Yes, I also have family folk who insist on canned cranberry sauce and this would do the trick. Thank you for sharing!

  • This is both insane and awesome. I definitely understand the appeal of the can rings, though. I used to measure my portion of the cranberry sauce by the number of rings.

  • Do you suppose you could do this with dried cranberries when you can’t get fresh? Does drying them affect the pectin, do you think?

    Hope this isn’t a dupe — dropped my connection in mid-post.

  • Just made it! Didn’t have any cans to use, but poured into a jelly jar glass, a pint jar and a half pint jar. We’ll see what happens! What I tasted was AWESOMELY DELICIOUS! I cannot wait to put this on the table tomorrow!!! Thanks Marisa! You never fail me! Have a happy Thanksgiving!!!

  • Thank you! Made this tonight and it tastes great plus I love the tin can molding idea; you’re so clever 😉 Happy Thanksgiving!

  • My brother has made fun of my Thanksgiving food choices for 10 years now. I’ve been a vegetarian all that time, and only last year found a turkey substitute that he thought was worth eating. (Field Roast’s Celebration Roast, in case you were wondering.) He scoffed at the idea of my bothering to make my own cranberry sauce, as we all like the canned stuff. After a taste this evening as I was cleaning up? “Not bad.” High praise indeed. 🙂

  • Lol, one of the first preserves I foisted on my husband was a homemade cranberry sauce. The whole berry ones didn’t past muster, but he is happy enough to eat a jellied of any shape so long as its just berries and sugar and water/juice.

    Which makes more for me, and I’ve made 4 recipes alone to test out which I like best. Canned for sharing with others.

  • I’m listening for my last ‘ping’ for some 1/4 pints of cranberry orange marmaladeish stuff – I noticed that I was a little heavy handed on the sugar and it was setting up this morning after I cooked it, so after I dished up for the table (a cut glass oval dish in our family), I set the rest of the pan aside in the fridge. Just heated everything up again and did five little jars of thanksgiving yumminess as I was setting up the crock pot for turkey stock.

    I’ll have to try the more “jelly” like version next year – I can totally see doing this presentation just to mess with the family.

  • Ha! So mine didn’t set (was just barely jiggly so I poured into a pretty glass serving bowl) but it still turned out great because the two ten-year old boys at our table were crazy for it. In fact, after dipping one forkful of turkey after another into it, they called it “turkey blood”! Lots of laughs — and for me, the reminder that a recipe doesn’t have to turn out perfectly to be appreciated. Thanks for the laughs, both for your fish dish and the turkey blood!

  • I love that you made it in a can! I did homemade jellied cranberry sauce a few years back but used mini jello molds. Cute but I missed the can ripples.

  • I did this for Thanksgiving. I made mine without apple cider and added in some ginger root… but same idea. Passed it through the food mill. Poured it in a can that used to hold white beans. Brought it to a feast.

    It was AMAZING. Delicious, easy to slice for sandwiches, a conversation starter… Just perfect. Thanks for the idea!

  • Total genius. And I LOVE the fish plate!

    Sadly, my mom forgot to add sugar to the cranberry sauce this year. That didn’t work out too well.

  • SWEET! I was wondering if I could make my own cranberry sauce instead of buying the kind with the corn syrup! I can’t wait to give this a try. If only I had found it before Thanksgiving!

  • Silly me! I read the title as, “Home canned cranberry sauce, made in a tin, can mold.” Silly, silly me.

    Looks great though!

  • As the days get shorter and cooler I’m already perusing recipes for the fall holidays. I hope to make this for Thanksgiving this year. I understand what you mean about “the family cranberry sauce dish”. Ours is shaped like a pear and was one I bought as a mothers day gift at a tag sale when I was about 9 years old. It is truly a treasure to me. Thanks for sharing all your wonderful recipes!

  • Thanks. My grown children look for the rings. They don’t want fresh. Made fresh one year and they were in shock. Even tho it was good they wanted the ‘rings’. But I may fool them good this year. Yeah.

      1. Did you mean 2 cans? I halved the recipe and was able to make 2 cups of sauce. I haven’t eaten mine yet, but it looked pretty well set last I checked, so I think I have the right consistency.

  • Mine didn’t seem to set up that well. We canned it, and put it in the fridge, but it still moves when we tilt it. Do you think that is normal? It seems like it should be a little more solid.

    1. Hey Sabrina, I use my post-milled berries (cranberries or other ones I’ve made into butters or purees) in to ferment my own raw, live vinegars! I have tutorials and photos up on my blog.

  • GREAT idea! I’m doing this for Thanksgiving this year. There’s something about slicing the round that brings back such great memories.

    Question: Instead of using the food mill, could I use my Vitamix and blend everything together? Would it come out the same?

  • One of my friends in a canning group just canned some. I had to check out your post since the link she posted said tin can mold. That part just cracks me up. Congrats on your fish dish. Pinning this.

  • I’m so excited about this! I have made “fresh” cranberry sauce for holidays for several years, and every time I show up with it for the first time, a family member is dismayed by the whole cranberry chunks and the loss of that treasured, can-ridge shape. (Then they taste it and change their minds…!) My dad, in particular, has always loved the smoother cranberry jelly. This year, I can treat him to homemade cranberry jelly with the consistency and shape he loves!

  • Oh my… oops.

    I made and processed a batch of this last month, and just looked at the recipe again today. I would swear I used apple cider vinegar instead of apple cider for this! I assume it’s still safe, given the acidity of the vinegar.

    It set up great, and I popped the cap on a jar the other day and used it as a spread on a turkey sandwich, and it was AMAZING. Happy accident?

  • I have seen 3 versions and all sound good. I think would last longer if “canned” in jars but there isn’t enough of this to worry about. Is doubling the recipe same r should juice be reduced a bit?

    I have a hard time standing by the stove and stirring. Wonder if cranberries can be pitted like cherries (I have a little cherry pitter) and then put in vitamix to mix up and then added to the sugar and put in the Ball Jelly Machinne so it would heat and stir it before I can it in jars or in the BPA free cans. Anyone tried that. I liked the idea of orange peel added as well. One recipe called for pectin, but I suppose that is what the cider and lemon are to do, to add the acid to give enough pectin. Any ideas on this?I saw another recipe that had juniper berries and peppercorns but sure would want to screen them out and get only the flavor. Saw some with the orange peel and thyme and rosemary in place of juniper in one. They all sound so good I’m not sure which to try first. The one with wine or madeira had a reduction of 3 oz. I think with 2 batches. My Jam maker only does 4 or 5 jelly jars. at a time.

  • My family would go into shock if I didn’t serve canned cranberry sauce at thanksgiving. I have made
    homemade with berries in it but they always go for the canned stuff. I am so tickled to have your recipe. I logged on too late to make it for thanksgiving but will make some anyway for leftovers. thanks.

  • I made this for Thanksgiving and it turned out so well, I got more cranberries and canned some! This is a great recipe! I don’t have a food mill, but I do have a Champion juicer – that worked perfectly!

  • If I swap out orange juice for apple cider, do you think it would still be fine in the water bath canner for 10 mins?

    I was very excited to see this recipe, as I want to avoid the high fructose corn syrup in the store-bought stuff, but always preferred the “jellied” kind instead of the whole fruit. Most of the other recipes I’ve found were for the whole fruit style, and didn’t have the added appeal of the can rings. Like several other commenters I always used the rings to ‘measure’ my portion! I made one batch with cider, and it was amazing, but we have to hand-press our own cider in order to get the real stuff (i.e. unpasteurized) and I would rather hoard it for drinking instead of using in recipes….

  • 5 stars
    My mother’s cranberry dish is heavy cut glass. It has been mine for over 30 years,:and I wouldn’t have ever thought of putting anything else but canned Ocean Spray in it, BUT I WILL NOW! I never liked anybody’s homemade cranberry sauce, especially if they mixed it with oranges, or whole berry sauce so this is tremendously appealing to me. I always make a fresh cranberry salad that my whole family absolutely loves so much that I freeze bags of cranberries and make it again in the summer. We won’t be having a Thanksgiving meal this year as I am having surgery a couple of days beforehand, but if my husband can find any bags of cranberries left after Thanksgiving I will have him toss them in the freezer and I will try this in a few weeks when I can cook again. Thank you for trying this and sharing it! I’m really excited to try it! Thank you!

  • Wonderful! Husband makes his “cranberry delight” dish every Thanksgiving. This year’s store bought canned cranberry jelly came out all runny from the can and he couldn’t slice it. He was bummed. I make most everything from scratch and so he gets excited to make his one dish that the kids love. I said to him we don’t like un-natural preservatives anyhow, I will search for a way to make the “tin can” sauce homemade. And here I am. I pinned it and in the process of printing your recipe. So excited to give it try. Thank you very much. Happy Holidays!

  • Hello 🙂
    Can I used fresh pressed apple juice from Granny Smith apples? I’m new to canning and not sure if the apple juice is for flavor, pectin, etc. Thanks!

    1. You can use any apple juice you want. It’s just a flavorful liquid to help the cranberries cook down. You could also use orange or cranberry juice.

  • Always read the blog too~the recipe list doesn’t show sugar as an ingredient. Sounds fantastic and I will be making it in the very near future. Your recipes have always turned out well for me. Thank you!

    1. It depends a lot on how much you mill the cranberries. I typically get between 2 and 3 pints/cans of cranberry sauce.

  • 5 stars
    This is so wonderful! Thank you! I, like everyone else, grew up with the ridges and feel it isn’t the holiday without the can of sauce! Over the years I’ve changed up a lot of what I eat on the holiday but a can of sauce is a classic. Today I just finished putting my sauce in the can and I am so excited for the ridges of homemade sauce on Thursday! I stirred some of the skins and seeds into the remaining liquid and am looking forward to a “chunky” version and a “smooth” canned version. Thanks for a great recipe, as always!

  • 5 stars
    Love this idea. I like to make fresh cranberry relish but my husband’s family always want the canned version. This looks like the perfect compromise. ❤️❤️

  • I have been making this for years. I used to just prefer the stuff out of the can but then I found a recipe very similar to this one. Fo even more flavor I add a 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, an 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1 pinch ground cloves. Yumm!
    BTW – I also add this spice combination to my cranberry sauce.
    And yes I waterbath can both my jelly and sauce. I always make waaaay to much but this way I have enough for Christmas/New Years/etc.