Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce


The way people like their cranberry sauce can be as personal as what kind of shampoo they use. There’s the canned jellied variety, or whole berries.  Then there’s fresh cranberry relish, where other fruits like pears or apples are chopped and added.  My favorite is fresh, whole berry cranberry sauce with fresh squeezed orange juice and zest added.  I also like to add a bit of ground cinnamon and pure vanilla extract.  The cinnamon and vanilla get people wondering why it tastes different — you just can’t quite put your finger on it.  Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce is always great as a condiment for turkey or ham, and is delicious as a spread on turkey sandwiches, or to top ice cream or a variety of desserts.

Making your own cranberry sauce couldn’t be easier.  You can buy a bag of whole, fresh cranberries, and freeze them until you’re ready to use them.  Just pull them out of the freezer, rinse them, and thaw them and they’re ready to go.  Be sure to pick through the batch as there are often berries that have spoiled or are close to it.

I like to use fresh orange juice, or like I did this year, fresh mandarin juice.  You know those little easy to peel mandarins called Cuties, right?  I always have them on hand in the winter as they’re one of our favorite fruits this time of year.  I had some that needed to be used ASAP, so I squeezed them and strained the juice through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds and pulp.  I ended up with a 1/2 cup of juice.  I also zested one Cutie as I firmly believe that whenever fresh lemon, lime, or orange juice is used, zest should be added as well.  The oils in the zest just pump up the citrus flavor even more.

Once you have all of your berries picked through and rinsed, and your fresh squeezed juice, just get a medium saucepan, a cup of sugar, and half a cup of water and it’s show time.  Place the water, juice, and sugar into the sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Add the cranberries, and ground cinnamon, give it a stir, and boil about 2-3 minutes more, or until the berries begin to pop.  Turn down the heat slightly once the popping begins, or soon you will have cranberry innards all around your stove top, and possibly the floor.  Continue to cook a bit longer, until most of the cranberries have popped.  I like to smash them even more with the back of my wooden spoon.  It’s kind of fun.  Remove from heat, and stir in the zest, and vanilla extract.  Leave the berries to sit out at room temperature until they’ve completely cooled.  Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator until your ready to use them.  You can make these up to two days ahead, and will keep for about one week.  It doesn’t matter which type of cranberry sauce is your favorite, these tart, sweet cranberries with a hint of cinnamon and vanilla extract just might make you switch!

Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This cranberry sauce is tart and sweet, with a great orange flavor and a hint of cinnamon and vanilla. Excellent as a condiment for turkey or ham, as a spread for turkey cranberry sandwiches, or as a topping for ice cream or other desserts.
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup fresh squeezed orange or mandarin juice, strained
  • 1 12 ounce bag of fresh, whole cranberries, rinsed and picked through
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of orange or mandarin zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Place the sugar, water, and juice in a medium sauce pan and stir. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat. Add the cranberries and ground cinnamon and stir. Cook about 2-3 minutes until the cranberries begin to pop. Reduce the heat slightly to prevent the popping berries from spraying the stove top! Continue to cook about 2-3 minutes longer, until the berries have all popped. Help pop them with the back of your spoon, if you desire. Remove from heat, and add the zest and vanilla extract, stirring until incorporated. Let the cranberry sauce sit out at room temperature until they are completely cool. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Cover with plastic wrap or store in an air tight container and place in the refrigerator. The cranberries will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Place the fresh cranberries in the freezer until you're ready to use them. Rinse, pick through them, and thaw slightly before cooking.