I’ve eaten jellied cranberry sauce at every Thanksgiving I can remember. It’s one of my favorite parts of the meal. And you know what? It has NEVER been from a can. I repeat: this is not the congealed stuff with bizarre horizontal lines. This is the real deal.
Seriously. Back away from the can opener, people.
This recipe for Molded Cranberry Sauce is from my Great Aunt Dot, who always knew how to do things in the kitchen “the right way”. Like how to make a perfectly thick, jellied cranberry sauce without any added gelatin or store bought pectins. All you have to do is cook the cranberries until they release their natural pectins. It really couldn’t be any easier. Just be sure to avoid overcooking the cranberries, or the pectins will break down and you’ll end up with a very runny cranberry sauce. Trust me. I speak from experience on this one. And nobody wants runny cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving Day.
This Molded Cranberry Sauce can be made up to a week in advance, making it just as convenient as the stuff from the can. And also WAY better tasting! Just saying.
- 6 cups fresh cranberries, thawed if frozen
- 2 cups orange juice
- 2 cups sugar
- Juice from 1 lemon
- Pinch of salt
- In a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cranberries and orange juice to a low boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until the cranberries stop popping, about 8-10 minutes. The mixture will foam up during this time, which is totally normal. DO NOT boil the cranberries longer than 15 minutes or the natural pectins will begin to break down. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
- Place a mesh strainer over a clean bowl. Add the boiled cranberries to the strainer and use the back of a spoon or a spatula to push out as much of the liquid as possible, collecting it into the bowl. Depending on the size of your strainer, you may have to work in batches. Don't rush this step, or you'll end up throwing away a lot of the liquid (I typically spend about about 5 minutes pressing the cranberries around the sides and bottom of the strainer). Once done, discard the remaining solids.
- Transfer the strained liquid back to the same saucepan and place it over medium-high heat. Add the sugar, lemon juice and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture has thickened slightly, about 3 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
- Wet the mold(s) that you'll use for the cranberry sauce by filling them with water and then dumping it out. I like to use drinking glasses or mason jars, but any kind of mold will do. Carefully pour the cranberry sauce into the mold(s).
- Transfer the molded cranberry sauce to your refrigerator. Let it cool for about 1-2 hours before covering the molds with a lid or plastic wrap. Continue to refrigerate the cranberry sauce until it’s very firm, at least several hours but overnight is ideal. The cranberry sauce can be stored in the molds for up to 1 week before serving.
- When you are ready to serve, run a butter knife around the inside edge of the glass to release the cranberry sauce. Then slide it out onto a plate and cut it into slices. If you are having difficulties releasing the cranberry sauce, you can run the mold under hot water for 10-15 seconds.
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