Jellied Cranberry Sauce (Canning Recipe)

by Becky
Published: Updated:

This jellied cranberry sauce canning recipe is sweet, tangy, and bursting with flavor! I’ve had several people tell me they don’t normally like cranberry sauce from the store but they loved my homemade version. Once the holidays are here, there will be no need to worry about making cranberry sauce as a side because you can make it weeks or months before. After it’s canned, it becomes shelf stable and ready to use at your convenience.

Jellied Cranberry Sauce Canning Recipe Details

  • Perfect for holiday season: Get ready to wow your friends and family with this flavorful jellied cranberry sauce for canning! Show them how much better homemade, home canned food is than the grocery store version.
  • Make ahead: One of my favorite parts about canning cranberry sauce is it’s one less dish to worry about making for a holiday meal.
  • Smooth Texture: I chose to take out the skins from this cranberry sauce and the texture is smooth and delightful! 
  • Less Sugar: This recipe has less sugar than the Ball Canning recipe but just enough to get the cranberry sauce to gel properly.

Tips for Success

  1. One of the most important steps is getting the cranberry sauce to gel and get firm. In order to do this you need to have the cranberry sauce and the sugar at a full roiling boil for at least ten minutes, stirring constantly. The pectin in the cranberries needs to be released and react with the sugar. 
  2. Let cool at room temperature. This is another tip for encouraging a not-to-runny cranberry sauce that keeps its shape on the plate. If you water bath can the sauce, it becomes shelf stable. But if you’re like me, I love chilled cranberry sauce with holiday dinner so I put it in the refrigerator before serving. Give yourself enough time for it get firm on the shelf before you do any chilling.
  3. Prep your canning tools, jars, and lids in advance. This is a time sensitive recipe that will need to be poured in hot mason jars right away. 

How to Test for Gel in Cranberry Sauce

Cranberries naturally contain a lot of pectin. This means no added pectin is necessary to make cranberry sauce but you do need to test to ensure a gel will form when it cools.  There are several ways you can test for doneness.

The first way is by temperature. Use a candy or jelly thermometer to measure, being careful not to let it touch the side of the pot. Once it reaches a temperature of 220ºF (104ºC), it is ready. 

The second way is doing the freezer test. Before starting the cranberry sauce, chill a plate in the freezer. When it’s time to test for gel, remove the plate from the freezer and place about a teaspoon or two of the sauce on the plate. Place in the freezer for one minute then remove. Run your finger down the center of the sauce. If it flows back together it is not ready. If it wrinkles and stays in place it has reached the gel stage.

Wrinkles of properly gelled cranberry sauce

Personally, when I take the pot off the heat, the cranberry sauce starts to thicken quickly. Meaning it will form a layer at the top that wrinkles each time I put the ladle into the pot to transfer the sauce to the jars. This is a good sign it’s ready.

A third way to test for gel is a sheet test. Here is how it is done:

Dip a cold metal spoon into the boiling soft spread. Lift the spoon and hold it horizontally and edge down so syrup runs off the edge. As the mixture cooks it will become heavier and will drop off the spoon separately but two at a time. When two drops from together and “sheet” off the spoon, the gel stage has been reached.

Ball complete book of preserving

The third method is my least favorite because from personal experience I’ve found it to be a little more subjective. 

Ingredients for Jellied Cranberry Sauce

  • Cranberries- Frozen or fresh cranberries work for this recipe. Cranberries naturally contain a lot of pectin and lend themselves well to a finished jellied sauce without any additional pectin.
  • Orange Zest (Optional)- If you want to add some orange aromatics and flavor to the cranberry sauce, add the orange zest. 
  • Apple Juice- Apple Juice adds another layer of flavor and some natural sweetness to this recipe. You can use home canned, fresh, or store-bought juice.
  • Water- A little bit of water helps the cranberries cook and pop open
  • Cane Sugar- Cane sugar is an important addition to jellied cranberry sauce because it helps the sauce to get firm and gel. Don’t substitute other sweeteners like coconut sugar, honey, or maple syrup. I’ve tested all of these and the flavor of sugar substitutions over power the cranberry sauce. Not to mention it is more difficult to get the cranberry sauce to get firm and set.

FAQ

What if my cranberry sauce isn’t gelling? This is a large batch of jellied cranberry sauce. Because of that it can be a little more difficult to achieve gel. To remedy a batch that isn’t gelling well, separate the mixture into two pots and boil until the gel stage is reached. The increased surface area will help the process to go faster. Also, do not reduce the sugar or it may not set properly.

Can I substitute different sugars? The use of other natural sweeteners like honey, agave, or maple syrup do not affect the safety of this jellied cranberry sauce canning recipe. However, it does affect flavor and the ability to gel well.

How to Can Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Prepare canner, jars, and lids. For more detailed information on the basics of preparing jars, check out my water bath canning guide.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine cranberries, apple juice, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and keep at a simmer for about 10 minutes until cranberries soften and skins burst. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Transfer the cranberry mixture to a food mill or sauce maker to remove skins. Alternatively, blend in a blender until completely smooth.

Return cranberry puree to the saucepan. Add sugar and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once the sugar is dissolved, and the boil visible even when stirred, set the timer for 10 minutes. Keep stirring the entire time. At ten minutes, remove from heat and test to see if the gel stage has been reached (see notes on how to test above). If the gel stage has been reached, stir in orange zest.

Ladle hot cranberry sauce into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims with hot water. Center lid on jar and add ring to jar, tightening until fingertip tight. 

Place jars in the canner. Water should cover the jars by at least one inch. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes plus any additional time needed for an altitude adjustment. Remove canner lid. Wait 5-10 minutes. Remove from canner. Wait 12-24 hours before removing rings and testing seals.  Ideal storage temperature is 50-70ºF

    Jellied Cranberry Sauce (Canning Recipe)

    This jellied cranberry sauce canning recipe is sweet, tangy, and bursting with flavor. Once the holidays are here, there will be no need to worry about making cranberry sauce as a side because you can make it weeks or months beforehand!
    Prep Time1 hour
    Cook Time20 minutes
    Processing Time15 minutes
    Total Time1 hour 35 minutes
    Servings: 6 pint jars
    Author: Becky

    Ingredients

    • 16 cups cranberries fresh or frozen
    • 4 cups apple juice
    • 5 cups sugar
    • 2 cups water
    • orange zest from 2 oranges optional

    Instructions

    • Prepare canner, jars, and lids.
    • In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine cranberries, apple juice, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and keep at a simmer for about 10 minutes until cranberries soften and skins burst. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
    • Transfer the cranberry mixture to a food mill or saucemaker to remove skins. Alternatively, blend in a blender until completely smooth.
    • Return cranberry puree to the saucepan. Add sugar and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture keeps boiling even when stirred, set the timer for 10 minutes. Stir constantly. At ten minutes, remove from heat and test to see if the gel stage has been reached. If not, keep boiling for another 5 minutes and test again. If the gel stage has been reached, stir in orange zest.
    • Ladle hot cranberry sauce into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims with hot water. Center lid on jar and add ring to jar, tightening until fingertip tight.
    • Place jars in the canner. Water should cover the jars by at least one inch. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes plus any additional time needed for altitude adjustment. Remove canner lid. Wait 5-10 minutes. Remove jars from canner. Wait 12-24 hours before removing rings and testing seals. Ideal storage temperature is 50-70ºF.

    Notes

     This recipe can be halved but do not double unless you use two separate pots. 

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