Growing up, I assumed that cranberries grew in the shape of a can. I am not alone. When I was nine, my Aunt Judy made cranberry relish from whole berries and nothing was the same again. I was only a kid, yet realized that when it came to canned cranberries vs. fresh, there’s no contest.
Of all the classic side dishes, cranberry relish is by the far the least challenging. If you can open a can, you can make it from scratch; it’s a pour and stir operation. In this challenge, I used my Cranberry Relish with Port and Orange. It’s easy, inexpensive and it takes only six ingredients.
Homemade Cranberry Relish
My family recipe calls for adding in some kind of alcohol as a flavoring, such as port, a sweet red wine or Cointreau. But frankly, if you don’t have it on hand, don’t rush out and buy a whole bottle. Just simmering some berries with sugar, water and a bit of orange juice will suffice beautifully, especially when enhanced with some cinnamon, ginger or Chinese five-spice. Around the holidays, you can find whole cranberries on sale. I based my cost per serving on $2.39 per bag.
Process: Measure out sugar, orange juice and other ingredients. Pour into the pan, stir with the cranberries and simmer for about 20 minutes. (See my recipe here.)
Active time: 4 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Cost per serving: 41 cents
Ingredients: CRANBERRIES, SUGAR, ORANGE JUICE, ORANGE LIQEUR, GRATED ORANGE ZEST, CANDIED GINGER
Canned Jellied Cranberry Sauce
Process: Open the can, pour onto a serving dish, slice
Active time: 4 minutes
Total time: 4 minutes
Cost per serving: 44 cents
Ingredients: CRANBERRIES, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, WATER, CORN SYRUP
Homemade cranberry relish: 7
Canned relish: 0
Certainly, there are fans of the sliced-from-a-can variety cranberry relish, but the homemade relish was a big hit with the firemen.
- “The difference is huge. I don’t even like cranberry relish normally, and I’m going back for seconds.”
- “I can totally taste the orange in this.”
- “This isn’t in the same league with the stuff in the can. I mean, I actually like this.”
- “It’s sweet, but in a complex way.”
Conclusion: Sure, you can serve canned cranberry and it will all be fine. If this task is going to tip you over into Anxiety Land, it’s not worth it. But when it comes to canned cranberries vs. fresh, the homemade version is just so much better. Taking a few extra minutes to make homemade cranberry sauce is worth the effort. After all, it’s something most of us eat only once a year. If you’re assigning dishes out to people, this is a good one.
Be sure to check out my complete Thanksgiving guide for more tips and recipes.