Thanksgiving Recipe: Cranberry Applesauce

One of my favorite foods at Thanksgiving was not something my mother or grandmother slaved over. It was the one ‘food’ I prepared for the table- the ubiquitous can of cranberry sauce. The first year my mother gave in to my mosquito whine of “puh-leeeaaaasssseeee let me open the can” you would have thought I’d won Iron Chef. I mean, cuz really, opening the can is not the hard part of that gig. It’s having the skill, hand-eye coordination, and most importantly, the aesthetic to get that wiggling gelatinous tube neatly onto its dish. Without having to poke it with your grubby finger (you know who you are).

I’m also not ashamed to admit that canned cranberry sauce and roast turkey was the first food flavor pairing I remember trying and liking without my mother’s coaxing and intervention. The sweet cool tang of cranberry against the salty warmth of the turkey? Sublime. At some point we move into adulthood (emotionally I’m still waiting) and canned cranberry sauce becomes a joke. I’ve been less than kind myself but I’ll still own it- I ate and enjoyed Ocean Spray cranberry sauce for many a decade. Until…until a friend made this grown-up mega-delicious alternative and I knew I couldn’t go back.

If you’re still doing the canned thing but think you might need more I promise this is the solution. Cranberries, apples, spices and lemon zest makes this chunky sauce perfect with any roasted poultry. Who am I kidding? You can eat it out of a bowl by itself, it’s that good. In fact, the only reason J and I have somewhere to go for Thanksgiving this year is this sauce and if I don’t have it in my hands when we show up at the door we will be turned away.

Enjoy and I hope you have a peaceful holiday.

Cranberry Applesauce

½ C plus 2T sugar                                2 ½ lbs Granny Smith apples
1 ¼ C fresh cranberries                        1 t ginger
½ t cinnamon                                      ½ t grated lemon zest

Peel, core, and chop apples into ½” pieces.

Combine sugar and ½ C plus 2 T water in a heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the apples, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Check and stir. 

Lower the heat to medium/medium-low, add the cranberries, cover and cook until the apples are very soft and the cranberries have popped, 15-20 minutes. Stir often to prevent burning or sticking.
Stir in the spices and lemon zest and cook uncovered for 5 minutes. Cool and put in container for storage. Refrigerate. Can be made 2-3 days ahead of time.


  1. I always thought making anything with cranberries took a lot of time and energy too! I realized my mistake last year when I attempted to make orange cranberry sauce for the first time. So easy! Your recipe sounds awesome too! Love those cranberries!

  2. If I was brave enough, I would sign in as the person who ate all of Catherine's cranberry/ apple treat. But I am not brave enough. It is my favorite cranberry dish ever- and I have been eating for longer than some and I would count myself among the professional eaters here in Portland. So would my waist. The bowl it arrive in is currently being held hostage for another batch.

    I will let everyone know if the second batch is as good as the first. But I am sure it will be- I ate all the cranberry/apple sauce last year. :0


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