Recipe: Sweet & Sour Cranberries

updated May 1, 2019
Sweet & Sour Cranberries
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(Image credit: Heidi Murphy)

These gems make for an unexpected holiday gift. They’re excellent as is or added onto a cheese plate near some sharp white cheddar. Their delight only transcends when spread into a sandwich or dabbed onto some roast pork. And the sweet, tart liquid that results can be served at the bottom of a flute — topped with Champagne, of course — at any holiday party. Float a few cranberries in the glass, for sure.

(Image credit: Heidi Murphy)

I like to freeze cranberries in advance when they’re priced just right, so I always have the berry on hand for this recipe. Just spread them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and pop into the freezer for a couple hours. Store in airtight freezer bags for up to six months.

I’ve also made these with pitted cherries with great success; just cook them a few minutes less.

Sweet & Sour Cranberries

Makes about 6 cups

Nutritional Info


For the cranberries:

  • 4 cups

    cranberries, fresh or frozen

  • 1 3/4 cups

    apple cider vinegar

  • 1 3/4 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 2

    cinnamon sticks

  • 1/2

    heaping teaspoon allspice berries (or ground allspice)

  • 1/2

    heaping teaspoon whole cloves

  • 1/2

    heaping teaspoon black peppercorns

  • 1/2

    heaping teaspoon juniper berries (optional)


  • 3

    pint jars with airtight lids, sterilized

  • Spice bag or cheesecloth (optional)

  • Regular-mouth funnel


  1. Wash the cranberries and pick over them for any stems or bad berries. If you are using frozen cranberries, just open the bag(s) and use them directly from the freezer; add a few minutes to the cooking time.

  2. Combine the vinegar and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and begin to bring to a boil. When the liquid begins to boil, add the cinnamon sticks. If using ground allspice (instead of allspice berries), add that now, too.

  3. Place the allspice berries, whole cloves, black peppercorns, and juniper berries (if using) in a spice bag (if using) or tie them up in a length of cheesecloth (if using). (Alternatively, you can just add them directly to the pot, but wrapping in cheesecloth makes for a cleaner gift.) Add the spice bag to the pot.

  4. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling vigorously, add the cranberries. Stir to make sure each cranberry is well-coated and cook 5 to 7 minutes, until the cranberries begin to pop and the mixture has returned to a rolling boil.

  5. After most of the cranberries have popped, remove the saucepan from the heat. Pull out the spice bag, but leave the cinnamon sticks in because they’re so darn pretty.

  6. Ladle the cranberries into sterilized glass jars through a regular-mouth funnel, distributing them into each jar evenly and topping with only as much liquid as needed. (Save the remaining liquid for your cocktail bar or other use). Let the jars cool to room temperature, and then store in the fridge up to 1 month.

Recipe Notes

Gift Wrap Option

Vintage glass jar with lid
Stamp and ink pad
Tape (optional)

Add your cranberries to a clean vintage jar. Wipe the rim and seal. Wrap layers of string around the jar, tie into a knot, and trim any excess string. Stamp the label on a small square of fabric. Slip it under the string or adhere it with tape.

Text excerpted from Food Gift Love, © 2015 by Maggie Battista. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

(Image credit: Heidi Murphy)

Find Maggie’s Book:

Food Gift Love by Maggie Battista