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A Case for Canned Cranberry Sauce: Defending Thanksgiving's Most Controversial Side Dish

Chowhound logo Chowhound 11/4/2019 Emily Murawski

a plate of food on a table: canned cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving table © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. (video) canned cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving table

Canned cranberry sauce can be quite a point of contention! Some people love it passionately, complaining to their Thanksgiving dinner host if it’s missing from the table. Others hate it fiercely, touting how tasty and easy the homemade version is. Personally, I have loved incorporating more and more unprocessed fruits and vegetables into my meals; yet, I consider myself an ardent proponent of canned cranberry sauce—why is that? Let’s go through why that can has rightfully stolen so many hearts.

The Nostalgia Factor

You cannot mess with people’s traditions. I consider myself to be very welcoming of change, and yet, I cannot picture homemade cranberry sauce on my Thanksgiving plate. It would feel like an image from a movie: A “regular” woman would help herself to some homemade cranberry sauce, spooning it onto her perfect movie plate, which would look pretty and realistic enough—but then I would go back to my real-life dinner with sweet, familiar slices of canned cranberry sauce. I know with my brain that homemade cranberry sauce is very inexpensive and easy to make, but this darn nostalgia makes my heart grow three sizes with love for my favorite log of cranberry gel.

a close up of a bottle: vintage Ocean Spray cranberry sauce ad © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. (video) vintage Ocean Spray cranberry sauce ad

A Place in History

Canned cranberry sauce comes from a place of (mostly) noble intentions. Back in the day, cranberries were available for around a six-week period, when they were ripe for picking, and during no other time of the year. Marcus L. Urann changed that when he introduced canning technology to the fleetingly-available cranberry—suddenly cranberries could stick around for months at a time! Hooray for the can!

Nowadays, produce makes lengthy journeys to reach our plates, from other states or countries, and so fresh cranberries are available for more than just a few select weeks in the year. But, isn’t it so cool that canning technology extended the staying power of cranberry sauce, before cranberries had to hitchhike thousands of miles to reach your plate?

Related Reading: How to Transport Thanksgiving Food Without Ruining Your Hard Work

Always Ready for Recipes

You have to admit that it is incredibly simple and cheap to just toss a can of cranberry sauce into your pantry and forget about it. Then, when you need something sweet for your appetizer or cocktail, you don’t have to frantically run out to the grocery store; you just dig up that trusty can of jellied cranberry sauce.

a bowl of soup on a table: Puritan's Pride nonalcoholic cranberry cocktail © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. (video) Puritan's Pride nonalcoholic cranberry cocktail

Try this slow-cooker meatballs recipe, which uses only meatballs, chili sauce, and you guessed it, a can of jellied cranberry sauce. Or, try transforming a Moscow Mule with the Thanksgiving sweetness only canned cranberry sauce can provide, using this Cranberry Jelly Moscow Mule recipe. No matter which you try, just remember to take home a plastic baggie of leftover cranberry slices this Thanksgiving, and see what you can come up with!

Last Ditch Effort: Homemade “Tin Can” Cranberry Jelly

a close up of a bowl of food © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. (video)

Finally, if I haven’t yet won you over, or, if you acquiesce that the nostalgia, history, and versatility mean something but you just can’t get past the processed contents, then I have good news for you. Try this Homemade Tin Can Cranberry Jelly recipe, which uses added pectin and a reused tin can to create the lined, cylindrical shape we all know and love, while maintaining all of the homemade goodness you advocate. It’s a modern ode to my beloved canned cranberry sauce.

So, shout your love of canned cranberry jelly from the rooftops, wear your adoration with this shirt, or simply keep being that rude guest at Thanksgiving who whines about the homemade cranberry sauce. No matter which you choose, know that you’re among fellow canned-cran-vangelists.

Related video: When To Buy a Frozen Or Fresh Thanksgiving Turkey + 4 More Prep Questions Answered [provided by the Rachael Ray Show]

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