Homemade Cranberry Jelly (for Thanksgiving)

November 13, 2009(updated on August 30, 2021)

cranberry sauce

It’s pretty much universally accepted that no Thanksgiving spread is complete without a cranberry condiment of some sort. My grandma Bunny was partial to a raw cranberry-orange relish she made with hand-cranked countertop grinder (I do wish I had her recipe, but both she and it have been gone since I was 15). My cousin Angie makes the same cranberry jello mold that her mother always used to make. My own mother has always been a secret fan of the standard canned stuff, not necessarily announcing her preference to people outside the family, but always ensuring that it appeared on any holiday table at which she ate.

In recent years, as I became enamored with the idea of making myself what I once mindlessly bought, I experimented with varieties of homemade cranberry sauce. I made whole berry compotes with fresh vanilla bean. I did an apple-cranberry sauce. I even tried that cranberry jello mold. As delicious as they all were, none were quite right.

french toast with cranberry

That is, until I determined to make a very simple cranberry sauce, using just fresh berries, a splash of apple cider and sugar. Essentially, I resisted the urge to fancy it up. After cooking, a pass through a food mill and a rest in the fridge overnight, I realized I had made something nearly identical to my mom’s favorite canned sauce, only without the high fructose corn syrup.

So, if you like the classic canned jelly, but have a burning desire to make your own, this is the recipe for you. Best of all, you can put it through a hot water process and make it shelf stable, making it a do-ahead Thanksgiving project (and it’s good on more than just turkey, it was delicious on the french toast you see above). The only downside I can see is that it won’t exist its vessel whole and retain the shape of the can.

The recipe is after the jump…

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Homemade Cranberry Jelly


  • 1 pound whole cranberries washed and picked over for any bad berries
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • lemon juice optional


  • Combine the first three above ingredients and simmer until the berries begin to burst. Remove from the heat and taste. If it's too sweet for you, add a bit of lemon juice to increase the tartness. If it's too tart, you can add a bit more sugar and return to the heat in order until the sugar is integrated.
  • Once the flavors are adjusted and the fruit has cooled a bit run it through a food mill or press it through a sieve, to remove the skins.
  • Pour into clean jars (leaving 1/2 inch head space), wipe rims, apply lids (make sure to simmer your lids at approximately 180 degrees for about ten minutes prior to use) and process in a boiling water canner for fifteen minutes (starting the time when the canner returns to a boil).
  • If you can't help but mess around with recipes, try adding some cinnamon, orange zest or a bit of vanilla bean (it's delicious, it just didn't match the food memory I was trying to satisfy). Make it your own!

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55 thoughts on "Homemade Cranberry Jelly (for Thanksgiving)"

  • I do love cranberry sauce – everything from the color to the flavor to how incredibly easy it is to make. I’d just been thinking today that I’d like to can it and have it in the cupboard year-round.

  • I have my great-grandma’s cranberry-orange relish recipe (with walnuts) that she used to hand crank (and which I now use my food processor.) I bet it’s pretty similar . . . I’d be happy to send it to you if you’d like! I make it every Thanksgiving (and am the last person who does in my family!). . . let me know! I have it in Word and can e-mail it to you . . . just shoot me an e-mail!


    PS – Nonetheless, your recipe looks fantastic too!

    1. Your Grandma’s Cranberry Orange Relish sounds incredible. I made my first Cranberry Sauce today and it is amazing. Would you be willing to send me your recipe? My husband and I would live to try it.
      Thank you, Patricia

    2. Sarah,
      I have been looking for a cranberry-orange relish (with walnuts) for quite a few years. I tried to go to your blog spot and contact you there, but I am not a computer friendly person and could not figure out how to contact you from there. If you would be willing to share your recipe, it would be greatly appreciated.

    3. Hi Sarah I am new to this site and was looking at all the comments about the grandmother’s cranberry relish sauce it must be really wonderful for so many people ask for it I am trying to make my very first cranberry relish if you could please send that to me my email is Marion. Dillingham at gmail.com thank you I know this is years later

  • Or if you’re looking for an update. There’s a great raw cranberry, orange, and ginger recipe in Susanna Foo’s second book.

  • You know, I’ve avoided the cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving my whole life, but cranberry jelly on toast sounds delicious. I think I’m going to have to give this a shot.

  • …but how to replicate the little ridges from the tin? at family gatherings, we’re not even allowed to smash it out of the can-shaped cylinder!

  • My grandmother made the raw cranberry orange relish with the hand crank too. Right now all I can picture are errant cranberries bouncing around the kitchen! After my relentless hounding to get this “heirloom family recipe” she finally revealed that it was the one on the back of the Ocean Spray bag. Bag of cranberries, whole orange (peel and all), cup of sugar – grind it all together and let it sit overnight. Really can’t be beat. (I do it now in the food processor with berries I buy at the local bog.)

  • Why do you put it through the food mill? Do the skins make a funny consistency? I’ve never found this to be so when I’ve made cranberry sauce.

    I like the addition of maple to cranberry sauce instead of sugar.

  • Oh! I love that so many of you have similar memories about grandmothers grinding up their cranberry/orange relish. And Ted, that Susanna Foo recipe sounds amazing.

    Huebscher, you could always clean out a tin can and use it as a mold for your own cranberry sauce. Could be a fun experiment!

    Anduin, I put it through the food mill because I want it to have as smooth and even a consistency as is possible. The goal is to have it resemble the canned stuff closely. If you don’t mind the skins, feel free to skip that step.

  • I was all ready to offer up my family’s recipe but it appears to be the exact same as everyone else’s! Not so much of the family secret recipe I thought it was, huh? I too have those fond memories – except it’s my mom who always made the cranberry sauce (really relish but we always called it sauce). Now that I’m on the other side of the country for Thanksgiving, I find it’s the only thing I ever really miss from dinner. I often find myself making a batch in early December.

  • Hi! My grandma also made a similar raw cranberry relish. I tried this recipe at Simply Recipes and I found it works great–although I use a whole bag of cranberries and a slightly lower amount of sugar. I’ve tried it in the food processor and in a meat grinder and I think the meat grinder has a much better consistency.

  • Everybody should make their own darn cranberry sauce!! That’s what I was thinking the other night when I was finished with mine. I love that you added the processing tip because you never see that in any recipes. Save it for the rest of the year, right?? Cranberries are so beautiful and I love how they jell up. I like my guys whole and chunky with orange juice and sugar. Oh, my.

  • Terri, cranberries have a great deal of pectin in them naturally, so there’s no need to add any extra. Additionally, you could certainly can them jam-style, with skins and chunks. I’ve had it that way and it’s delicious.

  • Thank you Marisa! I took a break from painting walls to make Cranberry Jam. After cooking, I added the juice from one lime and a splash of vanilla. I think it is going to be perfect on the corn muffins we are having with dinner.

  • Just whipped this up this morning. It made me realize that cranberries are no longer sold in 1 lb bags – glad I bought 2 bags this weekend!

    It is yummy. I’ll bringing this, along with my homemade cranberry sauce (official USAF recipe) to Thanksgiving dinner this year.


  • Too cool, thank you! I just have one question:
    Can I substitute honey and at what ration to sugar?
    Thanks in advance,

  • I’m wondering if you canned it in widemouth jars, if you could get it to slide out like the cylinder-o-cranberry does? maybe if you dipped the jar in warm water like you do with a jello mold? Now I want to get some cranberries and try this

    1. If you use 4 oz jars as the molds, it slides out nicely when the jar is warmed, & looks cute on any plate. I use several in a row on a rectangular Wexford glass plate that is probably meant for something else.

  • I made a double batch of this lovely jelly last night, and I can report that it will slide right out of a straight-sided jar, once cooled — handy if you’re really hankering for the effect you get with the store-bought cranberry-sauce-in-a-can. Since we’re going to eat my jelly this week and therefore I didn’t need to process this batch, I put it into old Bonne Maman jam jars, which have flat sides and make a nice jelly mold. The resulting cranberry jelly towers are so pretty and delicious!

  • Tried this tonight. It is awesome!! Found local cranberries at my grocery store and used those. A double batch works nicely and my daughter gave it the highest praise, “It tastes just like the cans; you should can it and sell it.”

  • We had this yesterday. My mom ran a “blind tasting” – gave everyone a spoonful of this, plus a spoonful of the canned stuff. Everyone easily *knew* which was the homemade, and it was clearly the preferred cranberry jelly. (All except for my sister – but she also prefers stove top stuffing and instant mashed potatoes. . .)

    I will never buyed canned again. . .

  • Thanks for the recipe! We finished our first batch on Thanksgiving at the inlaws. It was a hit! I’m starting another batch with the last of my local berries tonight. Oh, and if you stick it in a wide-mouthed pint jar it does slide right out and keep its cylinder shape. 🙂

  • hi all…I live in cranberry country…northern Wisconsin. This time of year I always buy 20+ lbs from my neighborhood organic cranberry bog, James Lake Farms in Three Lakes WI.

    I have a steamer/juicer and steam juice 5lbs at a time for the best cranberry juice concentrate on earth. I use raw agave nectar (not local but low glycemic) and mix the concentrate 2:1 H2O to juice.

    Then I pack quart zip lock baggies with the pulp and freeze for use through out the winter. We also have 7 apple trees, so have many gallon bags of apple pulp (processed in the steamer/juicer as well)

    On cold WI nights, we process the apple pulp and cranberry pulp through my hand crank food mill, add agave or brown sugar or maple syrup (local of course) to make the most amazing sauce for pancakes, toast on roasted meat..on and on.
    I am blessed! love and peace

    1. You are so blessed to have the fabulous cranberries nearby and the added apple trees. Being in the southernmost part of Ohio, I miss the western Michigan produce abundance of my childhood. Enjoy your fruits and labors!

  • Unfortunately, I am allergic to corn and cannot eat the traditional canned sauce. The past few years, I’ve tried to find the perfect balance of sweet and tart and to find the right texture. I picked up 5 bags and was prepared to try again this year. I used two bags to make your version exactly as written. It was perfect. So perfect that I made a second batch with the remaining three bags. My total supply includes 3 half pint jars and 6 pint jars. Thank you!

  • Hi! I know this post is a couple years old, but my friend made this recipe and it was fantastic and now I’m going to try to make it for Thanksgiving but I don’t usually do canning or anything like that. Do I have to do a hot water method to this in order for it to set or can I just run it through the sieve and refridgerate it?

  • I tried this, and loved it! It was so easy to make, i let mine simmer down to a thick jam like consistency and it was AMAZING! I most definitely recommend you try it, its so yummy!

  • Just wondering what you think about adding crushed red pepper or cayenne to make it sweet but spicy. Do you think the jelly about taste all right that way? I made your tomato jam and added pureed chipoltes with abode and it turned out great. Please email me or comment back. Love your site. Just started canning last year. Thanks

    1. Karen, I really can’t say because I’ve never made it that way. It would probably be good, but I can’t make any promises.

  • Yumm! this was really good- thanks for sharing the recipe and photos. Instead of a food mill, I used my vitamix blender- which turned out great. I figured out with applesauce a month ago that the peels (apple and cranberry I guess) have lots of pectin and using the blender makes the finished product thicker.

  • Hello Ladies
    I live in South AFrica and we do not have fresh cranberries. We can buy the dried ones. I would like to make my own jelly but am not too sure about the results. What do you think?

    1. Unfortunately, dried cranberries just won’t give you the same result. Is there anyway you could get frozen cranberries? They’re a better substitution.

  • My grandma always made cranberry relish, too! I have the recipe, though! I make it every year for Thanksgiving, but I cheat and use a food processor instead of the grinder. Here’s the recipe:
    1 bag of fresh cranberries, 2 apples, 2 oranges, 1 c. sugar. Grind cranberries, apples and oranges (keep the peel on the oranges) – mix together with sugar. Chill for at least 12 hrs. before serving (I like to make this a day or two before I serve it as the flavors blend better with time). Notes: If you have very large apples and oranges, you may only need one of each and the amount of sugar really depends on how sweet your fruit is – my mom has made this recipe with as little as 1/2 c. of sugar – I usually add 3/4 c. of sugar – I only use the full amount if my apples weren’t very sweet). 🙂

  • I made this yesterday. Tripled the recipe and it turned out tasting very good…The problem is it separated fruit on top liquid on bottom after I processed it…what did I do wrong?

    1. That typically happens when you don’t cook the product long enough. If you tripled the batch, the cooking time the recipe called for would have needed to be extended.

  • My grandmother also made a relish. It’s 1 bag of fresh cranberries, 1 apple, 1 orange and 1 cup of sugar. Run the first 3 ingredients through a grinder set on fine and than mix in the sugar. Allow to set than serve cold.