Years ago when my parents still operated their florist, one of my mother’s employees asked her about making fresh cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving.

“Oh, it’s so easy,” my mom reassured the novice cook, then gave her the simple instructions. When everyone returned to work on Friday, Momma asked her how it turned out.

With a big harrumph, she answered, “Linda, I’ll NEVER do that again! It’s just not worth the effort!”

My mom, knowing how quick and almost effortless it is to make the condiment from scratch, was flabbergasted.

“What do you mean?” she asked incredulously.

The young woman replied (almost in tears), “Well, it hardly made enough for one person and it took me over two hours just to peel all those cranberries!”

True story.

Forget the stuff in the tin cans. Fresh cranberry sauce is the bomb. This recipe achieves that perfect balance of sweet and tart that is the perfect foil for our turkey and dressing. Oh, and, um…no peeling required.

Classic Molded Cranberry Sauce

Author: Cheryl Beverage Barnes
Recipe type: Cranberry Relish, Condiments
Serves: 10 to 12
Molded Cranberry Sauce
Molded Cranberry Sauce


  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • zest of 2 oranges
  • 1-1/4 cups orange juice
  • pinch of kosher salt


  1. Lightly coat your cranberry mold with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the water and gelatin and allow to sit to soften while you make the sauce.
  3. In a large saucepan, bring the cranberries, sugar, zest, juice and salt to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low; simmer until most of the cranberries have burst and the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  4. For a super smooth cranberry sauce, place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Strain the cranberry sauce, pressing on the solids with the back of a spoon. Scrape the outside of the strainer to remove as much of the sauce as possible. Discard any pulp. While the sauce is still warm, add a ladle full of cranberry sauce to the softened gelatin; stir until gelatin dissolves. Add the gelatin mixture to the cranberry mixture and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared mold and allow to cool to room temperature. Loosely cover the mold with plastic and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Invert the cranberry sauce on a serving plate and remove the plastic before serving (you can dip your mold into some warm water to help loosen the sauce, if needed).


…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:

Planning: You can make the cranberry sauce up to a week in advance.

Product Purity: You can substitute apple cider for the orange juice, if you prefer for a surprising flavor twist.

Presentation: Buy an extra bag of cranberries and use some for a fresh garnish with sprigs of festive rosemary and pecans.

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