Cranberry sauce with apples and molasses

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Cranberry sauce with apples and molasses

This month’s theme for The Canadian Food Experience Project is Preserving: Our Canadian Food Tradition

(This is a repost of an existing recipe on this blog)

I grew up in a house with a cold room in the basement, that brilliant cold storage concept that got forgotten sometime during the post war building craze.

Okay, as a child I didn’t much like putting my hands into crates of potatoes in a dim room at the foot of the basement stairs but I didn’t mind being sent down to choose a bottle of jam or pickles.

The shelves were filled with strawberry, strawberry rhubarb, and raspberry jam, cranberry chutney, spiced currants, crab apple jelly a beautiful blush of clear pink, zucchini relish, mustard pickles, pickled beets and my favourite, Lady Ashburnham pickles. There were huge mason jars of dill pickles and my dad’s favourite, chow chow made with green tomatoes.

All of this stuff wasn’t necessarily labeled and in that dim room it was often hard for young eyes to discern the difference between a jar of strawberry jam, and say, a jar of cranberry chutney.


As a child in a home where preserving is a tradition this is what you believe:

  1. You believe that everyone has a cold room with old wooden shelves that sag under the weight of preserves by the time November arrives.
  2. You assume that every child arrives home from school in October to the sinus-clearing scent of cider vinegar simmering on the stove and tins of liquid paraffin in a water bath that you could dip your fingers in to make finger molds.
  3. You know that crab apple jelly only tastes good when there is no strawberry or raspberry jam left in the house.
  4. You have accidentally made (and eaten) peanut butter and cranberry chutney on toast (or some other unlikely combo).

You’d think I would have absorbed some know-how from my mom, but no…

  • There was the time we decided that strawberry jam had too much sugar so we cut the amount in half and had a whole batch blow up in our basement.
  • There was the time that we bottled zucchini relish when it was too cool so the canning tops didn’t seal and we had to store it all in our fridge.
  • There was the time we made dill pickles and the garlic cloves turned blue.

These days my preserving is limited and I’m happy to receive homemade preserves as gifts.

But one preserve I make faithfully year after year is cranberry sauce, mostly because it’s so easy but also because I love it with winter squash and root vegetables.

It adds a lovely dash of colour and a bright flavour to the sometimes drab-coloured plates of winter food.

Even better, local cranberries are abundant in New Brunswick and easy to find at local markets.

I know there are a million recipes out there for cranberry sauce but this is my all-time favourite. It’s slightly adapted from Craig Claiborne’s timeless The New York Times Cookbook.

My adaptation —  I swapped out some of the white sugar for molasses which deepens the flavour and works beautifully with the spices. The spicing is light so you still get that bright flavour that makes cranberry sauce so wonderful on a plate of heavy food. You can omit the spices altogether, if you prefer (it’s still yummy).

Cranberry sauce with apples and molasses

Adapted from The New York Times Cookbook

  • 1 pound of cranberries, picked over and washed
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  1. In a medium pot combine the cranberries, sugar, molasses and apples.
  2. Cover and place on medium heat, stirring from time to time.
  3. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Uncover, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook another 15 minutes.
  5. Stir in the spices.
  6. The mixture will thicken as it cools but cook it a little longer if you prefer a thicker sauce.
  7. Store in the refrigerator (tis cranberry sauce will last for at least three months) or preserve in canning jars.

The Canadian Food Experience Project began June 7 2013. As we (participants) share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity.


One more thing…

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Here’s to eating well, everyday,

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13 thoughts on “Cranberry sauce with apples and molasses

  1. Sher says:

    Using only the molasses it comes out a lot darker looking more like a date filling. Of course my Nan’s were darker still because of the Green berries LOL. …At Christmas Time she often used in it place of Jam for Thumbprint cookies…. So Glad you enjoyed my story….

  2. Sher says:

    I e-mailed you a few years ago asking if you had such a recipe in your archives..My Nan made cranberry molasses preserves. Your answer back at the time was no but it sounded interesting..This is very similar.. only difference is sugar..My Nan only used molasses to sweeten. The berries stayed quite firm, remarkable as they stayed on the back of the kitchen stove simmering away most of the day. They were bottled and away they went to the root cellar to join the rest of her pickles, jams and such. It was served as dessert with cream or spread between layers of Washington pie. My mother attributes their firmness to my grandfather who picked all the berries my Nan ever needed as she was crippled and unable to do so herself. He was color blind so the berry bucket was always brimmimg with Green not Red cranberries. I also remember the time he went out to pick spice cranberries and came home his entire berry bucket filled with Rabbit Droppings. Nan was not pleased and I can still see the berry bucket flying out of the kitchen door landing in the Currant bush. My grandfather was not far behind grinning from ear to ear as he scurried off to the barn to fetch his snares…. Memories….

    1. Bridget Oland says:

      Dear Sher, This has to be the best story I have ever received! And now you have me thinking about this recipe with sweet things. I bet it would be great with a gingerbread layer cake. When I make my next batch I’ll try it with molasses only. So glad you shared your memories!

  3. I served this at Thanksgiving and it was so enjoyed.Thank you Bridget for all your recipes with good old Grandma Molasses Molasses.

    1. Bridget Oland says:

      You’re welcome!

  4. Absolutely gorgeous and a hilarious and clever read, Bridget!

    1. Bridget Oland says:

      Thanks Valerie, It’s was lots of fun to write and my brothers and sisters had a good laugh about it too.

  5. Sounds delicious — I love chunkier cranberry sauces like this one!

    1. Bridget Oland says:

      Me too, the more texture the better.

  6. marie says:

    I’m making the cranberry sauce with apple for tomorrow’s dinner I will see the reaction from the guest. I’ll email the results latter.

    1. Bridget Oland says:


  7. marie says:

    I would like to thank you as I received Family Favourites 2nd Edition & already tried the apple crisp it was so good. I hope I will receive more of your books thanks.

    1. Bridget Oland says:

      Hi Marie, Enjoy the book. There are a lot of great oldies in it too.

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