Spiced Cranberry Shrub + Tangy Cranberry Applesauce

December 4, 2014(updated on August 30, 2021)


Yikes. It’s been a whole lot of sale, sponsorship, and giveaway posts around here lately, hasn’t it. Let’s get back to the pickles and preserves, shall we?

I know most people see Thanksgiving as the high point of the cranberry season, but I keep buying and using them until the last bag disappears from store shelves. I also always stash a few bags in the freezer for those moments in February when I must have some cranberry bread.

adding sugar to cranberries

Last week, inspired the last drops of liquid left over from a batch of pickled cranberries, I devised a quick cranberry shrub. It is just a combination of cranberries, apple cider vinegar, a little water (since cranberries are so dry, they don’t add any moisture to the party), sugar, and spices. You simmer it all together until the cranberries pop.

spices into cranberries

Once the contents of your saucepan have had a chance to cool (and steep just a bit more), you position a strainer over a large bowl or measuring cup and run the contents of the pot through it. You end up with a very tasty, tart syrup and a sticky mound of berries and whole spices.

spiced cranberry shrub

I like to dip a few spoonfuls of the shrub into a wide mouth quart jar and then fill it all the way up with fizzy water. The sharpness of the vinegar carries the flavor of the berries better than a syrup made without any additional acid and so it takes very little to brighten up a water or your favorite cocktail (I have it on very good authority that 3/4oz cranberry shrub + 1oz whiskey + 3oz champagne makes for a deliciously celebratory adult beverage).

open cranberry shrub

If you choose to make this, I highly suggest that you take those sticky solids and push them through a food mill or fine mesh sieve. You’ll end up with a highly spiced cranberry paste. You could serve it just as it is with some cheddar cheese (packed into a little ramekin) or you could do like I did and stir it into a batch of freshly made applesauce. It adds gorgeous color to the sauce and would be awfully good with a batch of freshly fried latkes (which starts on December 16).

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Spiced Cranberry Shrub


  • 1 12- ounce bag of fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 inches fresh ginger coarsely chopped
  • 2 star anise pieces
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper corns


  • Combine the cranberries, vinegar, water, sugar, and spices in a medium saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the berries have popped. This should take about ten minutes of cooking.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for 15 minutes or so.
  • Position a fine mesh sieve over a bowl or measuring cup that can hold at least 8 cups and pour the contents of your saucepan through. Let it sit and drip. If you want a clear syrup, resist the urge to press on the solids.
  • Pour the finished shrub into a quart jar and refrigerate. You can also process it in small jars for longer storage and gift giving if you prefer. Ten minutes for pints and half pints will do the trick.
  • Push the solids through a sieve or food mill. Serve with cheese or add to applesauce.

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14 thoughts on "Spiced Cranberry Shrub + Tangy Cranberry Applesauce"

  • Ha! I love that you mentioned the shrub champagne cocktail – it’s my new fave Sunday sipper, and will be perfect for holiday entertaining! And we add an extra dash of Peychaud’s bitters, just to round out the cocktail.

    1. So now I have a perfect use for the cranberry bitters I got at a food swap last winter. I’ll really need to give it a test run before breaking it out for my holiday party coming up though 🙂 Quality control you know.

  • I’m going to try this! Isn’t it so sad that we need to be like lil squirrels hoarding fresh cranberries,
    this time of year? 😉 I like to make cosmos with a couple spoonfuls of leftover cranberries from thanksgiving,
    thrown into the shaker then strained off…the spices and the orange peel helps wash down the medicine needed for further family gatherings. Cheers!

  • I made your pickled cranberries a year or so ago, and was so impressed with the liquid as a shrub (mixed with sparkling water) that I basically drank all the liquid and abandoned the berries! So glad to have a recipe for just the shrub – I’ve got 2 bags of frozen cranberries and plan to make it this afternoon!!! And your suggestions of what to do with the berries are great. Thank you!

  • I always think of Thanksgiving as the very beginning of cranberry season! They’re just the most christmasy of fruit (although I guess tangerines are in the running too). So good!