Cranberry Sauce with Apples and Molasses

Servings: 8-10 serving(s)

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Take me to the recipe

Cranberry sauce with apples and molasses is so tasty, so simple, so much better than store bought. Cranberry sauce with apples and molasses

Homemade cranberry sauce is the easiest of all preserves…

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.

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 preserving 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 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.


Cranberry Sauce with Apples and Molasses

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.

  • Author: Bridget Oland


  • 1 pound of cranberries, picked over and washed
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup Crosby’s Fancy Molasses
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • ½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp allspice (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves (optional)


  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 10-15 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 (up to three months) or preserve in canning jars.

Adapted from The New York Times Cookbook

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.

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17 thoughts on “Cranberry Sauce with Apples and Molasses

  1. 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.

  2. 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:


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

    1. Bridget Oland says:

      Me too, the more texture the better.

  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. Mareen Porter says:

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

    1. Bridget Oland says:

      You’re welcome!

  6. 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!

  7. 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….

  8. Lorraine says:

    Love this recipe and will be making it again this weekend. It’s simple but adds a nice touch to our “humble cranberry” sauce. :) Happy Thanksgiving!

  9. Doris says:

    I also grew up with a basement. The stairs were reached through a trap door in the kitchen . My mother would put milk , eggs , and anything else that needed to be kept cool on the stairs, so it was a like a refrigerator before we got one. As kids we never wanted to go down to the basement to get potatoes etc. except at Christmas time because there was goodies down there (cookies , chocolates, presents ) We would fight who would go then.!!! I like your stories and recipes. Keep it coming. One time I found what I had asked for Christmas while looking where I shouldn’t have and that was my saddest Christmas ever!! I never looked for stuff after that !!

    1. Hi Doris, Wow, a basement with a trap door! Sounds like the perfect spot to hide things. Like you, I once discovered some Christmas presents and never snooped again.

  10. Sadie says:

    I’ve tried dozens of cranberry sauce recipes and this is one of the best. The sauce is a beautiful deep rich red colour, and it’s nice and thick. I found the cloves a bit overpowering and would omit them the next time and add a pinch of ginger instead, but that’s a personal preference and doesn’t alter the base recipe. My sauce didn’t take as long to cook as the recipe indicated. The berries only cooked for a couple of minutes covered until they started to pop. The sauce had thickened nicely after simmering uncovered for about 10 minutes. I added 1/4 cup water to the cranberry, sugar, molasses, apple mix. Definitely a keeper!

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